A child’s legal interests are not the same as his best interests, and in proceedings for the Termination of Parental Rights, the child has a statutory right to counsel for the former, even if he already has a guardian ad litem for the latter. The holding in this case, which arises out of a Child and Youth Services (“CYS”) petition in Franklin County (home of John Brown’s Hideout), was a 5-2 decision upholding a child’s right to an attorney in Termination of Parental Rights proceedings to advocate for the child’s “preferred outcome” in the litigation.Read More
D.P. v. G.J.P.: Mere separation of parents is insufficient grounds to give grandparents standing to force custody dispute
The fourteenth amendment’s due process clause requires “that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents,” (quoting Prince v. Mass, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944)), and giving third parties–including grandparents–standing to initiate a custody battle before the courts invokes strict scrutiny. 23 Pa.C.S. § 5322 previously purported to give such standing to grandparents and great-grandparents when the parents had been separated for six months or more, presumably on the basis that such separation made the parents less fit and should open their right of custody to court supervision if questioned by close family members. But our Supreme Court ruled yesterday in D.P. v. GJP that such separation alone is an insufficient basis to overcome parental constitutional rights.Read More
A Father leaves a Mother shortly before she learns she’s pregnant. With almost no exception, the Father has no contact with his Twin Children for the next eight years until he gets married and suddenly files for custody. The Mother, who has raised the Twins with their maternal Grandfather, wants to terminate the Father’s rights to the Twins to avoid a custody battle, and so Grandfather agrees to “Adopt” the children with her.
But the Adoption Statute isn’t designed to help avoid a Custody fight; it’s designed to allow a child to “bond” the new family unit, and so the moving parent must agree to terminate her own parental rights to the child to terminate the other parent’s rights, unless one of two exceptions is met: 1) where a parent’s new spouse is the adopting party; or 2) for “cause shown,” an exception that turns out to be every bit as pointless as it sounds.Read More