Protect Arkansas parents from unconstitutional state interference of parental rights
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I am writing this petition in hopes of gaining support for not only myself as a parent and my child but also to help other families to get changes made to our current law that prohibit a court from placing restrictions on our right to make decisions regarding the care, control and continued uninterrupted custody of our children. So long as a parent is fit to provide day to day care to their child there should be no third party or state interference that hinders their ability to do what’s truly best for their own children. We have many protections throughout arkansas law to prevent the state from intruding into our lives. The problem that needs to be addressed is that currently there is no speedy remedy or method to get relief should a court fail to apply and uphold those protections. It took a judge only 3 hours to make a decision that could possibly destroy mine and my child’s life. I have spent over one month trying to recover from the destruction he has caused and to fight against and prohibit any further damages. I have yet to obtain the relief required to prevent irreparable damages to both my child and myself. There was nothing that I had done as far as being a good parent that caused this state interference in the decisions that I have always made for my child. Our lives have been invaded for nothing more than a horrific loss we have suffered through. That loss did a lot of things to us but restricting my parental rights to do the things I have ALWAYS done for my child should not be one of them. We have been through enough and this has to end!!! As of right now my child is happy, comfortable, secure and confident. I fear that with these new adjustments we will now have to make this may jeopardize all I have fought through to give my child after having lost his father.
Judges are required to uphold and apply the laws of the state. They are required to be impartial unbiased and to decide on matters without prejudice. Judges are given the power to make extremely quick decisions that could pose a serious threat to both the parent and the child. If a judge is able to do this without having first applied the protections that have been put in place to prevent families from these governmental intrusions then the parents should have some type of expedited procedures to remedy and prevent the devastation that may arise due to that judges actions. Basically judges are given far too much power to make decisions that sometimes violate citizens rights and there are very little or no available remedies for families once judges do these things. Judges have no one holding them accountable immediately. If a judge can judge immediately then that judge should be subjected to being judged immediately especially when there is evidence that they have abused their power and caused unduly burdensome stress and worry for parents and jeopardized their children’s well being.
I live in Arkansas County. My husband (Ethan Wylie) and I had one child together. We made this child together; we raised this child together and; we did everything for our child together. Tragically the man I made this child with lost his life when our child was only 5.5 years old. I have, as my child’s sole living parent, done everything possible to give my child the security and confidence he needs in order to get past this tragedy. I have, even though extremely difficult at times, continued to make decisions about and for my child so he is happy, healthy and comfortable. I have now been restricted and denied doing the things that I know is best for my own child for nothing more than my child and I losing Ethan.
Let me make something clear before I begin our story...this is not about me believing that grandparents shouldn't be involved in their grandchildren's lives. This is about a parents right to make this decision just as they make any and all other decisions. This and any other contact with third parties should be at the discretion of the parent of that child. Sometimes there are reasons unknown to outsiders that justify a parent denying certain contact. A parent or caregiver knows these children better than anyone does. Therefore, so long as that parent or caregiver is fit, there should be no reason for the state to inject itself into their lives to further question their ability to make decisions for their children. Currently Arkansas law allows a third party (grandparents) to petition the court in the event there is a breakup in the child’s home. This breakup can be from divorce, legal separation or by the death of one or both of the child’s parents. There was nothing we did to cause this tragedy and there is nothing we can do to avoid the legal battle we are now faced with. My child is a far cry from a "broken" child. Our home is completely stable, happy, comfortable and he is extremely secure. As if us losing a HUGE part of our family wasn’t enough for us to have to cope with we are now subjected to governmental intrusion into our lives if a third party decides they want something that a parent may not be able to give them because giving them this would not be what is best for their child.
My husband's death is what allowed the grandparents to petition the court for court ordered visitation. This is troubling but I can accept this. What I do have a problem with is that when they did file this petition under aca 9-13-103 and when a temporary hearing was set on this matter the judge failed to apply the strict standards that are within aca 9-13-103. Visitation was granted under this law but the requirements that lawmakers have placed within the law were not applied. You cannot just use a part of the law because it benefits one party but fail to use the other 80% of the law that protects the party with the most at stake in this matter. Arkansas legislators have worked very hard to make sure the constitutional rights of parents are protected. They have done their part in this area. The Arkansas judicial code of conduct states that a judge shall uphold and apply the laws regardless of whether or not the judge approves or disapproves of the law that should be applied. This is where the problem arises. Why put the protections there if a judge is able to ignore those protections and immediately rule based off of his own personal opinions? And when he makes the decision to do this a parent has no options to prevent the damages that decision will likely cause for their children and family? Yes he has clearly violated not only Arkansas law but also the code of judicial conduct and also he has in doing so violated my child and my rights as well. Instead of being able to immediately take action and protect my child I am forced to wait 4 months before we have a final hearing before I am able to appeal this decision to get relief and to prevent any further damages. Then I am forced to wait up to one year before my child and I will again have the rights we are entitled to have. This is unacceptable!!! If a judge is able to deny a parents constitutional rights there should be an IMMEDIATE remedy for that parent so they can do what is needed to protect their children from possible irreparable damages. There is no such thing in place! Arkansas expects judges to do what they are required to do and what they under oath vowed to do. We can’t leave this much power in the hands of one person. There has to be enforcement and their has to be consequences for destructive behavior such as this.
The judge presiding over my case used to be a local attorney. He has known the grandparents for most of their lives. He was the petitioners fathers attorney for many many years. He knew them and still knows them on a first name basis. This is a small town but even small towns should have equal justice just as a larger city would have. The code of judicial conduct states “a judge shall disqualify himself if his impartiality might reasonably be questioned”. The fact that he has known this entire family on a first name basis (I have proof of this) and he didn’t announce this on the record as required by law brings question into my mind as to his ability to be impartial and unbiased regarding this matter. I have filed a motion to recuse (disqualify) the judge and I attached the evidence to support that motion. The judge continues to sit on my motion and act like it doesn’t exist. The longer he does this the more doubt I have about his ability to be fair and impartial. He has already shown that he cannot be impartial by restricting my parental rights to make decisions for my child as I see fit at the temporary hearing without having first applied the necessary and appropriate laws as they relate to this matter. I have also submitted a formal complaint with the Arkansas judicial discipline and disability commission. Temporary or not this is an invasion of our privacy and it places my entire family in jeopardy.
The judge granted the petitioners everything they asked for against my wishes. He never asked if these dates worked for our family. He ordered that I do this as it fit into their schedule. This is what i have a problem with...not the grandparents getting to see my child. He gave them full overnight weekends that begin at 4pm on Friday BUT his return time is 6pm on Sunday. Child visitation always starts at 6pm on Friday. Yet he started my child’s at 4pm and the ones he granted this to are not even a parent? My child has worried himself sick over this. I am left with 2 choices (because there are no remedies available to me through current law). Those 2 choices are 1-I go against what I know is best for my own child and avoid possible punishment (jail) or 2-I do what’s best for my child then get punished for doing so. Now me making the decisions I have always made his entire life and doing what is best for my child subjects me to legal punishment. This is HORRIBLE! I have never been arrested in my life. I am no criminal. I am a loving and caring mother who has been victimized by our small town impartial, biased and prejudice court system. I am now limited on the decisions that I can and cannot make regarding my own child and those limitations were placed on me illegally and unlawfully.
This judge has a history of doing this to mothers when grandparents seek visitation. We were told by MANY people who know this judge and how he approaches this matter "he is going to grant them something...he always does". Which proves that I did not stand a chance from the very beginning. No matter what I said or what they said he was going to give this to them. This coupled with the fact that he has known the grandparents for a very long time leaves no doubt in my mind that I will never be treated fair in his courtroom. He is a grandparent himself and while he may very well be a really great grandparent and extremely involved he has to realize that a parent still has the right to make visitation decisions about their children. By him having the attitude that all grandparents are equal and all grandparents should override a fit parents decisions regarding the time they get with their grandchildren he is placing children in harms way. He has caused my child more turmoil than anyone can imagine. I am reaching out in an effort to bring attention to this matter and get justice for my child and I.
My late husband and I have always had our child at home with us. My child had NEVER spent the night with his grandparents before my husband passed away. Once he passed I did try to allow them time with my child each time they were here. When they would come and tell me when they were coming they were never denied seeing my child; as long as we had agreed on that time and that time worked for our family. They live in Baton Rouge and have always only visited us 3-4x per year. My child doesn’t do well with being away from his only living parent. I voiced my concerns and I made my requests (they could see my child but I was strongly opposed to overnights) at the hearing but the judge was not interested in my child’s best interest or my requests. He instead was biased and prejudiced from the beginning and gave my child’s best interest nor my requests as his parent any attention much less any special weight; which aca 9-13-103 requires he do. I am not a vindictive evil witch that despises these grandparents. I am a mother that knows what is best for her own child.
The Supreme Court has long recognized a parents right to the care, control and custody of their children. In Linder v Linder the Supreme Court held that “a parent has a fundamental right under the 14th amendment to the us constitution to prohibit state intrusion on her parenting her minor child”. They say I have the right to prohibit this. However, if I prohibit this I can be thrown in jail. So actually no I don't have the right to prohibit this; not immediately anyways. The only way the state can intrude on a parent-child relationship is when the parent is unfit or when there is an equally compelling interest involved. The only fundamental right at stake is my right to parent my child. Therefore strict scrutiny will apply to my case on appeal.
I can and I will overcome these unlawful attempts to invade our lives. It took the judge only 3 hours to make this unlawful decision. Yet it’s going to take me at least 1.5 years to get relief from this decision. I am confident in our Supreme Court. I have faith this will all be the way it should be in the end. But it should NOT take me 1.5 years or longer and thousands and thousands of dollars to get this done. There is no reason why the death of my husband and my child’s father should subject us to legal and even more financial obstacles than we already were facing. We have done nothing to deserve the state to interfere in our lives. I have done nothing but be a GREAT mother. Someone has to do something about this! Please support my petition and help me to get the FULL rights we deserve...we deserve happiness and our happiness was just jeopardized by the judicial system. I stand firm in my belief that visitation with third parties should ALWAYS be at the parent's discretion. My child is active in many different organizations and activities. This court order has placed restrictions on what we can and cannot participate in with regard to those activities. Our lives now revolve around this court order instead of what is best for my child. We need protections and quick remedies in place to allow parents to do something to protect our children should we feel we need to.
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