A recent news item from Utah presents one of the odder cases of child custody fraud in recent memory. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, a couple are in custody after allegedly forging documents to gain legal custody of their two grandchildren: a two year old and an infant, aged only four months.
According to the Tribune, the children’s parents are separated. The accused couple are the paternal grandparents. The case began to unfold in mid-February when the children left home for what their mother thought would be an overnight visit to the grandparents. She could not, however, reach them the following day. Upon contacting the police she discovered that, unbeknownst to her, a court had awarded custody of her children to the grandparents. The children continued to live with the grandparents for the next several weeks. During that time the grandparents did not allow the mother to see them. Reviewing court papers associated with the child custody decision, the mother’s attorney found a document supposedly signed by the mother in which she relinquished her parental rights to the grandparents. The document was a forgery and the paper reports that the court then moved swiftly to reverse its earlier decision. In the meantime, the grandparents took the children, closed up their house and left Utah, telling neighbors they were moving to California.
Police eventually located the couple in Las Vegas where, the newspaper says, the grandmother “told investigators they would not return the children.” Police eventually convinced her to reveal her location, after which Nevada child services took custody of the kids. The grandparents returned to Utah and turned themselves in.
Aside from a number of obvious How-Could-This-Have-Happened questions (such as: how did the Utah court wind up accepting a forged document concerning something as serious and unusual as a mother surrendering her parental rights to two small children?) this case – though highly unusual – is a useful reminder for all of us here in California of the importance of careful, detail-oriented representation by an Orange County child custody lawyer at the earliest stages of any Southern California child visitation and custody dispute.
An Orange County custody and visitation attorney can help you make a clear-eyed assessment of your circumstances, determining whether a developing separation or California divorce runs the risk of child abduction or California parental alienation. The earlier in the process you seek legal advice, the better the chances are that potential problems can be identified and addressed before they reach a critical stage.
Salt Lake City Tribune: Grandparents accused of forging papers to get custody of grandkids