The law grants biological parents a great deal of preference when it comes to matters of child custody. Unless egregious conditions exist that put the welfare of a child at risk, the rights of biological parents to retain custody are significant. This is especially true in cases where the mother is the parent in question.
Such rights are not absolute, however. Children’s Services agencies around the state of Ohio bear a responsibility of ensuring the well-being of children and can act to terminate parental rights if the courts agree the situation calls for it. In some cases, the state can seek to place the child in an adoptive home. But what if adoption efforts fail? At some point, can a natural parent seek to recover custody? The answer is not clear cut, as one recent case shows.
In this instance, a 6-year-old child was found at home alone. According to a report on the case, the natural mother was in jail at the time. The juvenile court terminated the woman’s parental rights on grounds of neglect and efforts began to see the child adopted.
Seven years later, no adoptive home had been found. The mother claimed to have turned her life around and petitioned the court for a restoration of parental rights and custody. The case wended its way through the system and eventually reached the state Supreme Court. There, the justices ruled that, under the law, the mother has no standing to seek a change to the permanent custody order that stripped away her rights, regardless of her current situation.
The court did hold that the mother could regain custody of the child if Children Services allowed it. But considering that the agency fought to block the mother, it’s hard to know if a reversal might ever happen. What is clear is that the law, as written, can sometimes seem counterintuitive to the people it is meant to serve. And because interpretations of the law can differ and change, those seeking to protect their rights do well to work with skilled attorneys.