Entries in Custody (7)


Mother and Daughter Trapped in Brazil Custody Dispute Return Home

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A Massachusetts mother and her 6-year-old daughter have returned home to the United States after being stranded in Brazil for nearly two months as a result of a tumultuous custody battle, according to their Facebook page.

Shauna Hadden, 33, of Agawam, Mass., took to Facebook to announce that she and her daughter, Ava, made it back Friday night.

"We are home!!!!!! Love you all thank you all," Hadden wrote on her Facebook page, "Trapped in Brazil." The page has received more than 12,000 likes.

Hadden said she got word that she could leave Brazil on Wednesday, when a federal regional judge there ruled that she and her daughter should be given back their passports, which they had turned over to police, according to a post on Facebook. Both Hadden and her daughter were also removed from the country's no-fly list, the post said.

Hadden took her daughter to Brazil on May 21 to visit the girl's father, Donizete Machado, whom Hadden divorced in 2009. When the mother and daughter arrived, Hadden says, her ex-husband went to court to get custody of Ava.

Although he was denied custody, a Brazilian judge ordered Ava's passport confiscated, Hadden said, adding that she surrendered her own passport as well when police came to her door.

Hadden, who has full custody of her daughter, said she planned a three-week trip to the South American country with Ava so the girl could meet her extended family and learn more about her cultural heritage.

"I was trying to do the right thing, what I thought was the right thing for Ava, and he hadn't seen her in four years," Hadden said.

When the two arrived in Brazil, "Shauna got a call from a man who lived in Machado's town telling her not to come," Shauna's mother, Linda Hadden, told ABC News. "Her ex-husband was planning to take Ava from her."

So instead of traveling to see Machado, Hadden says she chose to go north and stay with friends.

"That's when Machado got angry," Linda Hadden said. "He and his sisters started sending my daughter nasty messages, saying things like, 'You're going to have to stay in Brazil forever.' So Shauna decided to take her return flight home."

But Machado, who had bought the plane tickets, cancelled them when Hadden arrived in Brazil, she said.

While the U.S. State Department tried to get Hadden and Ava out of Brazil, Hadden grew increasingly concerned that she would not get her and her daughter's passports back before her travel visa expired Aug. 21.

"I have no documents here. I fear to even go in the car because if I get pulled over and I don't have my documents, ultimately they could throw me in prison because I'm undocumented," Hadden told ABC News in a Skype interview.

But after the judge ruled in her favor, Hadden posted pictures of herself and her daughter smiling and holding their passports on Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Family Feuds over NFL Player Jovan Belcher's Million-Dollar Baby

Jamie Squire/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The grandparents of a 4-month old girl, orphaned when her football player-father Jovan Belcher killed her mother and himself, are locked in a bitter custody dispute over the tiny heiress set to inherit nearly $3 million.

Tiny Zoey Belcher is entitled to millions in life insurance, annual payments and retirement funds from the NFL as the sole heir to Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs who killed himself and the girl's mother, girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, in December.

A lawyer for Perkins' family said the family was seeking permanent custody of the girl.

"Personally, I don't know why we would want to reward Jovan's -- the murderer's -- family with giving them the baby, but that's not a legal argument," lawyer Jon Michal Franks told ABC News.

The baby was initially in the custody of Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd. Shepherd alleges that she gave the baby to Perkins' family because they wanted to take the infant with them to attend Perkins' funeral in Texas. Once there the girl's maternal grandparents cut off all contact with Belcher's family, according to her lawyer.

"Cheryl agreed to temporarily allow the maternal relatives [to] take Zoey to Texas for her mother's funeral," Shepherd's lawyer, Gretchen M. Gold, wrote in an email to the Jackson County, Mo., probate commissioner last week. "The maternal relatives have now ceased communicating with Cheryl Shepherd and have refused to return her calls or return the child to her care."

Franks disputes that, saying Shepherd willingly brought and left the baby with her maternal family in Texas.

The families are now locked in a custody dispute in two different states, with Belcher's family suing in Missouri and Perkins' family seeking custody in Texas.

"Cheryl left the baby [in Texas] voluntarily after Kasandra's memorial. There was no baby snatching at all," Franks said.

The Missouri court will hear arguments on Friday. A court date in Texas has been set for Jan. 22.

Franks said Belcher's mother was initially given custody following the murder-suicide because she was the only next-of-kin at the scene and someone had to immediately take care of the child.

"My impression is that the family here in Texas may have a more stable environment, and be better suited to take care of the child," said Franks.

Under the current NFL players' contract, Zoey's estate or guardian is entitled to more than $100,000 for the next five years and around $50,000 until she turns 18 or until 23 if she attends college. She also stands to inherit a $600,000 life insurance payout, plus nearly $1 million through her father's NFL retirement account.

On Dec. 1, 2012, Belcher, who played for the Chiefs in every game since 2009, shot Perkins multiple times at their home. He then drove to the team's stadium, where he killed himself in front of his coaches and police.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Florida Parents Who Allegedly Threatened Suicide Pact Denied Reunion with Kids, Fla.) -- A Florida judge has decided not to return two children to the parents that authorities followed across the country after they allegedly mentioned a suicide pact during efforts to treat one of their girls' autism.

James Firth, 43, and wife Mai Firth, 31, were found with their daughters outside San Francisco last week. Before taking off for California late last month, they had traveled to Florida from Vietnam, where they had been living with their two girls, Trieu "Kiah" Co Firth, 2, and Chieu "Kristin" Quan Firth, 4.

The couple was seeking treatment for autistic daughter Kristin at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., police said.

A Brevard County judge ruled Monday that the two girls will remain with the Florida Department of Child Services for the rest of the month, saying it was clear that the parents had threatened to kill the kids.

"(You) didn't bother calling anyone and took off for California? Come on," the judge said.

In court Monday, James Firth denied that he ever intended to hurt his children, but the judge referred to records indicating specific threats made in the presence of the case worker overseeing Kristin, ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando reported.

Another custody hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 4 at 10:30 a.m. No criminal charges have been filed against the Firths.

"They are deeply concerned," the Firth's attorney Julie Pierce said, according to WFTV. "They were both weeping. They will do whatever this court requires of them to get their children back."

The couple is alleged to have made the alarming statements to health professionals in Florida with whom they'd had contact with while seeking treatment for Kristin, Carrie Hoeppner of the Florida Department of Child Services told ABC News.

James Firth allegedly said he would kill their children and themselves if they were unable to get Kristin the treatment she needs.

Hoeppner said that when they were found in California last week, they agreed to return to Florida without incident.

"The family was found outside of San Francisco safely, and they were also very cooperative with authorities, even to the point of helping to get the kids into the car," Hoeppner said. "There was no confrontation."

The children were flown with social workers back to Florida Thursday, and have since been in the custody of the state's Department of Children and Families.

At a shelter hearing Friday morning, the children's paternal grandmother, Sandra Firth, asked the judge whether she could have temporary custody of the two girls. The judge denied the request, saying that he wanted to hear from the parents before reaching a final decision.

Police, who were already alarmed when they learned of James Firth's alleged statements about killing his family and himself, told ABC News they were also concerned after they realized he had lied to police about the hotel where the family was staying while they sought treatment for Kristin before the four disappeared.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Immigrant Mom Loses Effort to Regain Son Given to US Adoptive Parents

Encarnacion Bail Romero cries after learning she won't regain custody of her child she knew as Carlos. (ABC News)(CARTHAGE, Mo.) -- In a controversial case that involved the rights of illegal immigrants and their young children, a Guatemalan mother lost her effort Wednesday to get back the five-year old son who was taken away from her after her arrest on immigration charges and put up for adoption in Missouri despite her objections.

A Missouri judge ruled the boy should stay with the Missouri couple, Melinda and Seth Moser, who took him into their home five years ago while his mother was in federal custody, where she attempted in vain to oppose the adoption proceedings.

"Nobody could help me because I don't speak English," said Encarnacion Bail Romero in an interview with ABC News.

The child, born as Carlos but renamed Jamison by the Mosers, has been with his adoptive parents in Carthage, Missouri since the age of 11 months.

The judge said the biological mother had no rights to even see her child, according to the mother's lawyer.

Asked if the Mosers would allow Bail Romero to see the child, the Mosers' attorney, Joseph Hensley, said the couple was "not willing to comment on that at this time."

"We're extremely happy about the decision," said Hensley, who also noted that the decision, "really puts the biological mom in a difficult decision in terms of staying in this country."

The ruling Wednesday reaffirmed the original decision by another Missouri judge who terminated the parental rights of Bail Romero, stating that, "illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child."

The Missouri Supreme Court called the initial decision a "travesty of justice" and ordered a review of the case by a second judge.

Appearing outside the courtroom with tears in her eyes, the biological mother declined to comment. Her lawyer, Curtis Woods, said he would appeal the decision of the judge who he said ruled Encarnacion Bail Romero's parental rights had been terminated because she had abandoned him while she was incarcerated.

"I am very disappointed in the decision," said Woods.

The judge handed down the decision in a courtroom closed to all but the parties involved and their lawyers. There was no translator provided by the court Wednesday for the Guatemalan woman, who speaks only a little English.

The ruling allows the formal adoption proceedings by the Mosers to proceed.

The Mosers left the court without speaking to reporters, but they had previously argued in court that they could best provide for the boy and that they were the only parents that he knew.

"I could not love him more, had he come out of me physically," Melinda Moser said in an earlier interview.

The biological mother was arrested in 2007 on an immigration raid at a chicken processing plant in Missouri and has not seen her son since.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Colorado Lesbian Wendy Alfredsen Mom Granted Paternity in Custody Battle

ABC(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) -- A lesbian mother who fought for custody of her child by becoming the first woman allowed to file a paternity suit in Colorado has finally been granted access to her daughter.

The case was a custody battle ripped from the headlines: In the middle of a messy divorce, one parent took the child and fled the country, leaving the other to work the legal system in hopes of seeing the child again. In the case of Wendy and Lena Alfredsen of Centennial, Colo., the custody debacle was complicated by the sexual orientation of the lesbian parents, who had few legal rights under Colorado state law.

The Alfredsens decided to start a family in 2006 and adopted two biological sisters. Because Colorado law at the time of the adoption did not allow for a child to have two gay parents, each woman became the legal parent of one girl.

In 2009, when the women decided to part ways and Wendy Alfredsen hired legal representation, Lena Alfredsen took her legal child and went to Norway to live. Wendy Alfredsen, who had no warning about the impending move, thought she might never see her other daughter again.

"She didn't get to say goodbye to her parent or sister," Wendy Alfredsen told ABC News affiliate KMGH. "How can that not damage a kid?"

Wendy Alfredsen and her attorney, Ann Gushurst, decided to fight for custody of the girl by taking advantage of a recent decision in Colorado that allowed non-biological parents to file paternity suits.

"I think any parent would fight tooth and nail for their kids," Wendy Alfredsen told KMGH. "I didn't know what contact I would have, what role I would play, especially not legally being her parent."

In January, Gushurst convinced Judge Steven Collins in a courtroom packed with legal aides, clerks and judges that a woman should have the same right as a man to file for paternity of a child. The judge agreed.

The decision will allow non-biological parents who have shown a history of parenting to fight for custody, which is a boon for gay parents and for children, Gushurst said.

"It means that we're talking the first steps in realizing that children have rights to be with their parents," Gushurst told KMGH. "We give a lot of lip service to the best interest of the child, but children don't really have a legal standing in our court system."

Following the decision by Collins, both Wendy and Lena Alfredsen agreed to share custody of both children.

Lena Alfredsen and one daughter continue to live in Norway, where Lena is from, while Wendy and the other daughter continue to live in Colorado, Gushurst said. They are continuing to work out parenting arrangements.

"It's a huge milestone," Wendy Alfredsen told KMGH. "I just did what any parent would do for their child. But it does feel good to know that we're making a change."

Alfredsen, who has traveled to Norway several times to see her adopted daughter, said the girl still considers her to be one of her moms.

"She always screams and jumps in my arms and says, 'Mommy, I missed you,' and, 'Mommy, I love you,'" Alfredsen told KMGH. "It doesn't matter the amount of time that's passed."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Josh Powell Loses Custody Battle to Susan Powell's Parents

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Josh and Susan Powell's children will remain in the custody of her parents because of a dangerous home environment with sexually explicit material and because of the possibility that Josh Powell participated in the voyeurism and child pornography charges against his father, a Washington court ruled Wednesday.

The hearing came after the children were removed from the home of Josh Powell and his father, Steve Powell, amid Steve Powell's arrest on 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of child pornography. The father and son lived in the home following Susan Powell's disappearance in December 2009 until the charges were brought.

The state's attorney told the judge that during a search of the home in August, police saw a poster depicting a woman with a sword through her genitals and found a hanging noose, and that on other occasions they had arrived at the home to find Josh Powell's brother naked when answering the door.

The lawyer added that Josh Powell admitted to investigators that he had taken photos of women's legs without their knowledge, in addition to having stored some of his father's information on his personal computer.

Fifteen computers were seized from the home during the search, part of the ongoing investigation into Susan Powell's disappearance. The police found thousands of photos and videos of women and children, including images allegedly taken by Steve Powell from his bedroom window of girls as young as eight and 10 years old.

Police said the charges against Steve Powell represented only the first findings of what was on the 15 computers, and that Josh Powell was also a subject of the investigation.

Josh Powell contended that the allegation about the poster was false, and he had only heard of police seeing his brother naked as he left the restroom once.

Powell added that the 15 computers seized were mostly old and had nothing to do with pornography but were part of his career as a software developer. He said the noose was actually an exercise handle, a photo of which he had sent to the judge.

Despite Josh Powell's pleas, the judge ruled that the home was not safe for children and that the children would remain in the custody of Chuck and Judy Cox, Susan Powell's parents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judge: Kids Can Live with Child Killer, For Now

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- Trisha Conlon's teenage son will continue to live with a woman who shot and killed her own daughters 20 years ago, ruled King County Superior Court Judge William Downing in Seattle Monday. The judge issued the order pending an investigation of the welfare of both of Conlon's children.

For the past month the highly publicized custody battle between Conlon and her ex-husband, John Cushing, has made headlines in Seattle, where Conlon is fighting to make sure her children don't spend time with her husband's first ex-wife, Kristine Cushing, who currently lives with him on Vashon Island in Washington.

Conlon's son Sam, 13, typically lives with his father, John Cushing, as a result of the couple's unusual split custody arrangement, set up in 2005. Conlon's other son, Stephen, 14, usually lives with her.

Conlon, of Silverton, Ore., had two boys with her ex-husband, John Cushing, after they married in 1995. Nine years later they divorced and arranged split custody of the boys, alternating holidays.

The arrangement was working out fine until, Conlon says, she discovered her teenage sons had been spending time with their father's first ex-wife, Kristine.

John Cushing, a retired Marine fighter pilot who works for Boeing, had been married to Kristine Cushing for 17 years.

The couple lived with their two young daughters in Laguna Niguel, Calif., where Cushing was a stay-at-home mom. She filed for divorce in 1991, and, in the same year, began taking Prozac and seeing a psychiatrist.

Then, at home one night in October, she killed their 4-year-old, Stephanie, and their 8-year-old, Amy, with a .38-caliber handgun.

John Cushing eventually got back together with Kristine Cushing, remarrying her in 2005, one year after divorcing Conlon. That same year California authorities ruled Kristine Cushing posed no risk to others.

After discovering Kristine Cushing was spending time with her sons, Conlon eventually hired an attorney to change their 2005 custody agreement so that her kids no longer have contact with Kristine Cushing.

Judge Downing granted Conlon's motion for a custody modification Monday, overturning a commissioner's earlier ruling that her custody arrangement with her ex-husband didn't need to be changed. Even so, in his decision Downing asked that a court-appointed child advocate investigate on behalf of the children's interests and submit a report within 90 days.

At the end of the investigation, the court will decide if the teenagers' residential schedules ought to change.

But in the meantime, there will be no change in either of the kids' residential schedules. The judge also asked that John Cushing remove any firearms or weapons from the home, stop residing with Kristine Cushing if she isn't in compliance with the recommendations of her treatment providers, and comply with any "safety plan" imposed by Child Protective Services.

Conlon has declined interview requests via her attorney.

"Judges in these child custody cases are often weighing very complex issues against each other. Here the commissioner was clearly impressed with the fact that the boys had a longstanding ongoing relationships with their father," said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of Psychiatry, Medicine, and Law at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York. "The boy who lived with him appeared to be doing very well ... to upset that apple cart at a sensitive time in the life of two young teenagers carries risks of its own."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio