A South Carolina man’s child custody victory in an upstate New York court Friday is both a heartening sign for Orange County fathers facing custody cases that cut across state lines. It also, however, offers a sobering lesson in just how much of a battle dads can face when they seek to claim their Orange County fathers’ rights.
According to newspaper accounts in both New York and South Carolina, a court in New York’s Warren County (a mostly-rural area north of Albany) awarded Johnny Smith of Conway, South Carolina full custody of his five-year-old daughter this week after a legal battle lasting more than two years. What has to be shocking for Orange county fathers is that this took so long despite the fact that the little girl was abused while in her mother’s custody in 2008 – an offense for which the mother served a year in prison.
Warren County NY did not seek to return the girl to her mother. The Albany Times-Union reports that the mother did not even contest custody. The county, however, argued that Conway’s daughter should remain in foster care rather than being reunited with her dad because “all of her medical, educational, mental health and emotional needs are being met” inside New York’s foster care system, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun-News. According to the Times-Union, Warren County sought to keep the girl in New York indefinitely because it believes Johnny Smith and his current wife are “financially fragile.”
Orange County fathers watching this case are likely to see it as just another instance of a legal system that often appears to be stacked against them. Indeed, while the Smith case does show that justice can prevail when father’s rights are in danger, it is also a reminder of how lengthy and emotionally consuming a process asserting those rights often is. When a case this seemingly clear-cut can drag on for more than two years, what hope is there for a father whose case may be more ambiguous – especially if the mother actually does contest child custody? Moreover, when a case, like Smith’s, involves more than one state things immediately become more complicated and often move at an even slower pace.
In such cases finding the right Orange County fathers’ rights lawyer can be a challenge. It is important to seek an attorney whose practice has dealt with inter-state custody disputes in the past – a lawyer who is uniquely prepared for the special complications, and frustrations, often presented by fathers’ rights and parental alienation cases, whether they are based here in Orange County or stretch across the country.
Albany Times-Union: Father’s custody quest now fulfilled
Myrtle Beach Sun-News: Judge: Conway father can return from N.Y. with 5-year-old daughter next week