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In Child Custody Dispute, Mountain View Father Talks About The Concerns That Led To Alleged Parental Abduction

Mountain View father and NASA scientist Anthony Gerard Heyenga is currently at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Santa Clara County where he is facing a felony parental kidnapping charge. Heyenga was apprehended by police after he took his daughter, then 5, from her mother’s custody and disappeared for two months. He had been in an ongoing child custody dispute with the child’s mother.

Heyenga had missed a July 20 child custody hearing and could not be found the next day when it was time for the girl’s mother (Heyenga’s ex-girlfriend) to pick her up. Both father and child were gone. They were apprehended in Coldwater, Mississippi in September at a campground behind an AMOCO gas station just off Highway 306.

Heyenga says that he took the child because he feared for her safety and health. He claims that she had bleeding rashes that he believed were caused by duct tape used on her body. He also believed that one of the mother’s relatives-a registered sex offender who had already molested the mother’s older daughter-could potentially harm his daughter also.

The NASA scientist says he wrote to the FBI and the Department of Justice with his complaints. He said he hadn’t planned to disappear permanently with his daughter. He just wanted a federal judge to pay attention to his case and he thought the interstate journey would create notice.

“I felt my child was in imminent danger and was being ignored because nobody had time,” Heyenga said. “Maybe I overreacted. But hopefully people can understand why I did what I did.”

Statistics show that there are nearly 200,000 parental or guardian abductions every year in the United States. The Santa Clara County parental child abduction unit alone recovers about 60 to 80 children a year.

The mother of the girl, now 6, denies that her daughter was ever harmed or is exposed to abuse. Regardless of whether or not he is convicted, a family court judge will be the one to decide whether Heyenga can see his daughter without court supervision.

Child visitation rights let the noncustodial parent spend time with their child. A judge can deny a parent visitation rights if there is evidence of potential emotional, physical, and sexual abuse occurring between a parent and child. A judge may even decide to revoke all parental rights. A judge can also deny visitation rights or order supervised visitation between a parent and child if he or she feels that the non-custodial parent may disappear with a child again.

The California Self-Help Center offers the following information about supervised child visits with parents:

What is Supervised Visitation?
The public policy of the State of California is to protect the best interests of children whose parents have a custody or visitation matter within the family courts. Sometimes, based on issues of protection and safety, a judge will decide that in order for a child to have contact with a parent, a neutral third person must be present during any visitation. A judge may make these orders on a temporary basis in order to give the visiting parent an opportunity to address specific problems or when contact is being reestablished after a prolonged absence. The court order will specify the time and duration of the visits. Sometimes, the court order will also specify who the provider is to be and where the visits are to take place.

Who is a Supervised Visitation Provider?
There are two types of supervised visitation providers: the professional provider, who has agreed to follow the Uniform Standards of Practice for Providers of Supervised Visitation and usually charges a fee for services, and the non-professional provider who is typically a family member or friend. Your court order will generally specify which type of provider you are to use to supervise these visits. There are guidelines and minimum qualifications have been written for both professional and non-professional providers.

What is the Job of the Supervised Visitation Provider?
The provider is there to make every effort to keep your child safe and support your child in enjoying the visit with the supervised parent. Whether a paid professional, family member or friend, the provider’s job is to make sure that the children involved in the visits are safe and free from any unnecessary stress. The provider must be present at all times during the visit, listen to what is being said, and pay close attention to the child’s behavior. If necessary, the provider may interrupt or end a visit. All providers are to report suspected child abuse to the Child Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 540-4000.

Sagaria Law P.C. handles child custody, child visitation, and other family law-related matters in Monterey County, Alameda County, and Santa Clara County. If you wish to speak with a family law attorney regarding your child custody or child visitation matter, contact Sagaria Law, P.C. today. Your first consultation is free.

Santa Clara Agency Hunts Kids Abducted by Parents, Insidebayarea.com, November 30, 2006
Mountain View Father Tells His Side of Alleged Kidnapping, Insidebayarea.com, November 30, 2006
Supervised Visitation Information, California Courts: Self-Help Center

Related Web Resource:

Child Visitation, FAQ, Nolo.com