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California Mother Says She Will Appeal Felony Child Custody Conviction

A 28-Year-Old El Cajon, California mother convicted of a felony custody violation charge says she will appeal her conviction and probation sentence. Latonna Witt was tried for failing to return her 10-year-old son to his father after a scheduled weekend visit on July 2005.

The boy’s father found out in October 2005 that Witt had removed their son from the Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana and had enrolled him in a California school. Under her child custody agreement, Witt was allowed weekend visits with her son but was not allowed to remove him from the state of Indiana. She was arrested in May. Witt is being ordered to serve 18-months probation.

Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a state’s court will hear the child custody case if any of the following is true:

· The state is the child’s home state.
· The state had been the child’s home state within six months before the case started, the child was moved out of the state, and a parent or someone acting as a parent lives in the state.

· It is in the best interest of the child for the court to take the case because the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with the state and there exists in the state substantial evidence about the child’s present and future care, protection, training, and relationships.
· The child is present in the state and there is some kind of emergency, such as an abusive parent or neglect.
· It appears that no other state will take the case and the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child that this court do so. The court generally will not take a case if the matter is already being heard elsewhere. The court will generally honor the custody decrees of another state.

In the United States, there are five basic ways to enforce custody and visitation rights:

1) Criminal Prosecution: Any person who takes or retains a child in violation of another person’s custody rights may be guilty of the crimes of parental kidnapping and/or interference with custodial rights. The federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, 28 U.S.C. §1738A and 42 U.S.C. §§654 and 663, imposes criminal penalties on parents who take, conceal or refuse to return a child as to whom they do not have lawful physical custody.

2) Enforcement Motion: A violation of a custody order may be brought to a court’s attention by means of serving and filing a motion to enforce and/or modify the custody or parenting time order.

3) Contempt proceedings: A person who willfully disobeys a court order may be punished for contempt of court. The punishment may include a fine, imprisonment, or both. A person who is jailed for civil contempt may be held in jail indefinitely, until such time as she brings herself into compliance with the order in question. A contempt proceeding is generally initiated by obtaining, serving and filing an order to show cause. Failure to appear in court in response to an order to show cause is, in itself, a contempt of court.

4) Civil Suit For Damages: A person whose custodial or parental rights have been interfered with may be able to bring a civil suit against the offender–and/or his accomplices, if any–for damages, including both reimbursement of the expenses incurred in recovering possession of the child and compensation for the suffering the kidnapping or other interference has caused (the cost of psychological counseling services, for example).

5) Resolution by a mediator or parenting time expeditor.

In California, Sagaria Law, P.C. handles child custody, child visitation, and other family-law related cases in Alameda County, Monterey County, and Santa Clara County. Contact Sagaria Law, P.C. for a free consultation.

Californian To Appeal Custody Verdict, Fortwayne.com, November 21, 2006
Custody and Visitation, Familylawsource.com
Uniform Custody Act, Familylawsoftware.com

Related Web Resources:

Custody And Visitation, California Courts
Child Visitation FAQ, Nolo.com
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act