Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ultimate frustration

Friday's class ended a bit after 5:00 PM, as I was hauling my equipment from the classroom complex back to my office, I encountered an acquaintance and his family who were waiting to speak with a deputy sheriff. The man I am acquainted with and his wife were at headquarters with their adult son. They had a court order in hand that changed the custody of the son's child from the mother to the father. The father had a baby a few years ago with a women he never married. After a series of court battles, he had now won custody of the child. His parents were trying to help him navigate the legal swamp of child custody.

Mother still had the child in her physical custody, and wasn't about to let her go with dad voluntarily. The family wanted to police or sheriff to make her give the child up. I see people regularly who are caught in a similar dilemma. Court orders are not self-enforcing. Nothing in the custody order gave us the authority to forcibly remove the child from the non-custodial parent. While there is a crime in Nebraska, called violation of custody, it requires as one of its elements the taking or enticing of the child from the parent having lawful custody. In this case, the mother had not taken or enticed the child away from anyone.

This young man's recourse, unfortunately, was to go back to court and ask the court to hold the mother in contempt, and direct the sheriff (or for that matter, me) to remove the child from the mother and restore custody to the father. I always obey judges when I am specifically directed to do something. When the deputies arrived in the lobby, they gave this family the same response. Our policies are virtually identical, informed by years of experience and legal advice from our County and City attorneys.

Many people find themselves in similar predicaments when children are being used as pawns in adult custody battles. It is most important for police officers to make sure the child is safe, but after that, there is nothing we can do unless a law is violated. With a couple of exceptions (notably, protection orders) it is not a crime to violate a civil court order. Some attorneys who work with clients in divorce and custody cases seem unaware of the law in this regard, and incorrectly advise their clients that all they need to do is take their court order to the police or sheriff. This is not the case. The enforcement mechanism is for the court to hold the violator in contempt.

I think judges should take a very dim view of people who elect to ignore the court's orders. If more people suffered serious consequences for violating such orders, litigants would be more inclined to abide by these orders rather than substituting their own needs, wants, and judgement for that of the court.

After talking with this family for about an hour, I gave the child's father two final pieces of advice before I left for the evening: "Do not make babies with a person who is emotionally unstable," (I used a more colorful word), and "No matter how rotten the mother of your baby acts, don't ever, ever bad mouth her in the presence of your child."


Anonymous said...

Off subject but I saw that one of the party crashers from last spring got a year in jail. Pokorney is great.

Anonymous said...

No this is the ultimate frustration


Anonymous said...

The whole divorce/child custody needs to be revamped in Nebraska. Fathers are always put on the back burner. I had to fight and fight and spend over $15000.00 to get joint custody. That is rediculous. Most people can't afford that and give up so they end up giving the mother a ton of Child support and hardly ever see their kids. I agree with child support if the father abandons the child but when they are equally involved then the mother should be equally responsible for support. The courts should make the age of majority 18 or high school graduation.

Anonymous said...

In front of my child (18 now) I have always said nothing but good about his mother. My son knows I care for his mom. Mom is caught in a violent relationship with a sexual incest perp of a husband. Even though both children have told mom about the abuse she is still in denial and protecting the abusive husband.
the step dad is quite different. I would have my son mail him the dog poop from the yard if it were legal. Stepdad is still roaming the streets and abusing your children. Good for Lincoln that he lives in western Nebraska (SB). Also he is a great contact if you need some pot.

Tom Casady said...


Quite a sentencing order, too. If I get around to it, I'll post it next week.


You are right. ;-)

Anonymous said...

jj, just give the ball a little tug upward so it's momentum runs out as it reaches the arrow.


Anonymous said...

Do not make babies with a person who is emotionally unstable

Beware also the case of adopting her children — lest ye find her saying, in the wake of her seven year itch, "the only thing your adopting those boys means to me is that you'll be obligated to pay me child support if you leave."

Voice of Experience

Anonymous said...

"Do not make babies with a person who is emotionally unstable, (I used a more colorful word)"

I'd get written up for saying that.