Here in Connecticut there have been some interesting developments in the field of child custody law. Later this month a Connecticut legislative panel is gathering to foster discussion and debate regarding legal disputes and child custody cases. Furthermore, a case that has garnered considerable public attention concerns the battle for the custody of Connecticut teenager Justina Pelletier. Since February 2013, Justina has been held in custody by the state of Massachusetts, because of suspicion that her parents were guilty of medical child abuse. Connecticut’s new legislative panel on child custody, as well as Pelletier’s situation, both indicate that families face significant challenges when it comes to child custody cases.
The Case of Justina Pelletier
Justina Pelletier is a 15-year-old girl from West Hartford, Connecticut, who is the center of a 11-month long custody dispute between her parents and the state of Massachusetts. This dispute is the result of differing opinions between Justina’s doctors at Tufts Medical Center and the Boston Children’s Hospital’s concerning Justina’s deteriorating health, and whether it is the result of either a psychiatric or physical issue. Before going to Children’s, Justina was being treated for mitochondrial disease. However, when Justina was admitted to Children’s upon her doctor’s recommendation, the doctors there wanted to prescribe vastly different treatments believing that Tuft’s diagnosis was wrong, and that Justina actually suffered from psychiatric issues. Justina’s parents were alarmed that Children’s Hospital was dramatically changing Justina’s treatment without their original doctor’s involvement, and they threatened to take Justina back to her original doctor. In response, Children’s reported the Pelletier’s to the state citing suspicion of medical child abuse. As a result of this report, Massachusetts’ child protection agency placed Justina on emergency custody, where she has remained for the last year.
The Issues Raised in the Case of Justina Pelletier
The custody case of Justina Pelletier is an example of how unprepared the current legal system is to deal with medical child abuse cases. Medical child abuse is a term used to describe when parents are accused of abusing their child by interfering with the child’s medical care, denying the child medical care, or pushing for unnecessary medical care on behalf of their child. The issue in Justina’s case is not so much whether which diagnosis is correct. Instead it illustrates the state government’s inability to mitigate complex cases involving child custody and medical diagnosis. As a result of this ineptitude, Justina has been held in the Children’s psychiatric ward for the past 10 months because the Massachusetts has been unable to find a proper foster home or residential space that is willing to take on Justina’s extremely complicated situation.
Hopefully, the local government’s inability to handle complex custody cases will soon be a thing of the past. In fact, Connecticut has called a legislative panel with the specific purpose of hearing testimony regarding the role that both attorneys and guardian ad litems play in custody disputes regarding minors. Specifically, they are concerned with legal cases concerning parenting responsibilities regarding child care and custody.
The legislative panel on child custody is a great move in the right direction towards creating a system that is capable of handling complex child disputes like the one the Pelletier’s are facing. If you have any question regarding Connecticut child custody laws, or any other family law related issues you should contact the family law attorneys here at our law firm in Hartford, Connecticut.