How does a mother in southern California with primary physical custody of the parties’ eight year old daughter lose that custody? By behaving badly.
At least that was the conclusion of a Riverside County judge who entered an order in August, 2013 awarding custody to the girl’s father, who resides in Idaho. And today, the California Court of Appeal issued a 35 page, unanimous decision affirming the trial judge’s decision.
The appeals court agreed with the trial court’s consideration of a number of things that the mother had done to raise concern. For example, there was evidence that the mother was going to tell the girl all the bad things about the father when the child turned 18; that the mother did not permit the child’s court-ordered visitation with the father for Christmas, 2012; and the mother engaged in publically criticizing the father and his new wife, including on the internet.
In addition, the mother listed the father’s phone number as her own on the mother’s dating website; she prohibited the father from picking up the girl for summer visitation because he did not give her a written itinerary, which he did not have to do because it was not court-ordered; and she called the father a “f—— deadbeat” within ear distance of the child.
It gets worse. When the maternal grandmother (mother’s own mother) wished the girl well as she left with the father, the mother told the grandmother “f— you. I want my f—— itinerary”. And before the child’s most recent visit with her father, the mother cut out the child’s photo from a photo of the child and the father, and placed the photo of just the father in the girl’s suitcase.
There was also evidence that while in the mother’s care, the girl had 21 unexcused absences from school and 14 tardies. The mother was living with her parents, was unemployed and unable to drive, was supported mostly by her parents, suffered from significant physical and mental health issues, had attempted suicide, and had given birth to another child fathered by someone no longer involved with the mother.
Thus, even though the mother had primary physical custody pursuant to the parties’ 2010 divorce decree, she lost her custody rights due in large part to her behavior.
As noted above, this case originated out of Riverside County. The trial judge was the Hon. Kelly L. Hansen. The decision, Marriage of Turner, was not certified for publication by the Court of Appeal. This means it cannot be referred to or relied on as precedent in subsequent cases. But it is an example of how, even when somebody has custody on paper, he or she can lose it all by behaving badly.