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In January 1991, Luke Warm wife and mother of Paul and Rachel Warm died of cancer. After his wife's death, Mr. Warm became despondent and his employment was terminated since he was intoxicated on the job.
On February 15, 1993, the Circuit Court of Maryland for Frederick County reviewed the petition filed by Child Protective Services and removed Paul and Rachel Warm from their father since he was not providing a stable home environment. Specifically, the children were living in a dilapidated trailer that had no indoor plumbing and little food. Further, the children were consistently tardy from school and were receiving failing grades. Although the school encouraged Mr. Warm to monitor his children's school performance, he failed to do so.
On February 16, 1993, the Circuit Court of Maryland for Frederick County placed the children in foster care with Teresa Foster. In July 1993, the court awarded temporary custody to Ms. Foster with Mr. Warm's consent. However, the court left open the option of Mr. Warm petitioning for custody.
Initially, the children missed their father. However, as the months progressed, they became attached to Ms. Foster and adjusted to their new school. They developed numerous friendships at school. Further, they did extremely well academically. Paul made the honor roll. Rachel was on the baseball team at school. Ms. Foster was an active foster parent. She attended all the PTA meetings and Rachel's little league games.
Although Mr. Warm was given liberal visitation with the children while they were in foster care, he did not see them often. He saw them once a month in 1993. In 1994, he saw the children even less frequently. By 1995, the children may have seen him once every three to four months. Mr. Warm was given a copy of Rachel's game schedule. However, he attended one out of 14 games. It should be noted that Mr. Warm got married in the fall of 1997 and moved to Cumberland, Maryland. Thus, the children saw their father even less frequently. When the children did see him, the stepmother and her children came with him. The children do not like their stepmother or her children.
Mr. Warm has notified Ms. Foster and his children that he wants custody. However, he has not filed a petition with the court for custody. The children do not want to live with their father and his new family. After hearing Mr. Warm's announcement regarding custody, the children's performance in school dramatically decreased. Paul now has frequent nightmares. Ms. Foster is a teacher at Frederick Middle School, Frederick, Maryland. She earns $43,000 annually from her teaching position. Additionally, she earns $7,000 annually as an Avon Sales Representative. Mr. Warm is currently employed in the maintenance department of Frostburg State University and earns $14,000 annually. Ms. Foster is seeking permanent custody of the children. She is amendable to granting Mr. Warm visitation rights. She does not intend to request child support.
In this custody case between Ms. Foster, a third party, and Mr. Warm, the children's biological parent, can the presumption that it is in the best interest of the children to be placed with Mr. Warm be overcome by a finding of unfitness or exceptional circumstances?
III. BRIEF ANSWER
In Maryland, a child’s custody is considered only in the best interest of the child. The opinions from the Circuit Court helps in determining the exceptional situation that custody of the children are in the best interest of the children. The Maryland custody ruling questioned the best interest of the children in the custody of their biological father or the foster parents, the father could be denied custody of the children if the Court found that he was unfit to care for them appropriately. Finally, the issue that should be considered is the existence of exceptional matters that can be damaging to the children’s welfare. N.Y. Family Law Ann Code. Sec. 5-201 .
Mr. Wan’s argued that he was the biological father of the children and that he had custodial rights on them and that consenting to give them to Miss foster to take care of them, should not be interpreted as neglect.
Applying the above standards, the Maryland Circuit Court held in the Luke Warm vs. Teresa Foster that the father had never taken any special interest on the children’s welfare since he gave them up to foster home. Miss Foster, cared for the children for more than two years without frequent visitation from the father, the children stopped missing him, and instead got psychologically attached to Miss Foster. The children’s bond with the foster parent was so strong and the mere idea of separation was causing Nicholas constant nightmares. The court observed the fact that, the children disliked their stepmother; hence certainty of security of the children in her care. Psychologist advised that the children’s emotional consequences when separated from their foster mother would be so detrimental and should be discouraged.
Mr. Warm had Rachael’s games schedule but attended only one game out of fourteen, clearly showing lack of interest in the children’s affairs. Intoxication caused him his job previously, so granting him custody of the children would not be on their best interest but harmful both physically and mentally. Mr. Warn lived with the children in a dilapidated trailer with no indoor plumbing and poor nutrition making him unfit to gain custody. At Miss Fosters home they found a warmth, love, care and necessary needs. They were morally upright and church attendance was compulsory.
In this case, the court may find that exceptional circumstances exist that would make custody with Mr. Warm detrimental to the best interest of the children. The court may find the exceptional circumstances based upon the extended length of time the Warm children have been away from their father, the emotional ties between the children and Ms. Foster, and the stability with Ms. Foster versus Mr. Warm. In this case, the children have been residing with Ms. Foster since February 16, 1993 and have become emotionally attached to her. Ms. Foster has taken an active role in the children’s lives. Moreover, the court may find that Mr. Warm is unfit to take care of his children. He was unable to take care of the educational needs of his children. In addition, Ms. Foster is in a better financial situation than Mr. Warm.