The case of Justine Pelletier is one that has been raging on for the past year and has been carefully watched by the family law attorneys here at Greenberg & Krieger LLP. Earlier this week a Massachusetts judge ruled that permanent custody of Justine Pelletier would be granted to the State of Massachusetts, though Justine’s home and parents are in West Hartford, Connecticut. The case began as a simple issue of medical misdiagnosis and has morphed into a contracted multi-state child custody dispute.
In February 2013, Lou and Linda Pelletier took their 15-year-old daughter Justine to Boston’s Children Hospital because she was experiencing gastrointestinal issues. While the doctors that Justine had previously been seeing at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center were treating Justine for mitochondrial disease, her new doctors at Children’s believed that Justine’s medical issues where psychiatric, and not physical in nature.
When this belief was raised, the Pelletier’s objected and threatened to remove Justine from Children’s and take her back to Tuft’s for treatment. However, the Pelletier’s were unable to do so because Children’s Hospital reported them to the Massachusetts Department of Child Services because of suspected medical child abuse, and Justine was placed into emergency custody where she has remained until the Massachusetts State Court’s decision was entered earlier this week.
Parental Perception in Child Custody Cases
The Judge’s ruling earlier this week came after almost a year of silence from the State of Connecticut, which failed to get involved in the case. In fact, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families was silent even after being provided with court documents and an order to investigate the transference of conditional custody to the Pelletiers. However, earlier this year the Department finally entered a determination stating that granting the Pelletier’s custody would be against Justine’s best interests.
The March 25th decision to place Justine Pelletier in the permanent custody of the state of Massachusetts was a decision that took almost a year to occur. During this time period the Pelletier family publicly displayed extreme anguish regarding the loss of their child and the legal proceedings that they were going through. This extremely public display may have served to be the Pelletier’s downfall. Judge Johnston found that the couple was in need of “psychological and clinical evaluations,” because of their actions, which the judge believed had significantly impeded the progression of the custody case.
Actions that led Judge Johnston to the conclusion that the Pelletier’s should not be granted custody included the Pelletier’s verbally abusive behavior towards Children’s Hospital. This included threats of calling the FBI, and references to hospital employees as being “Nazis,” as well as the use of profanity when addressing and referencing to hospital personnel.
In fact, Judge Johnston stated that a social worker had been removed from the case because of threats made by Lou Pelletier. The Pelletier’s, in their defense, stated that their actions should not be surprising given the stress they were under, and Lou Pelletier stated “there’s never been a complaint about the Pelletier family regarding our daughter, our family, prior to Boston Children’s Hospital getting involved.” He added that “the complaints have been when DCF decided we didn’t smile rightly at them or do whatever.”
The case of Justine Pelletier is a sad one and it is easy to imagine that, but for the actions of her well intentioned but misguided parents, custody would have been granted, and Justine would have been allowed to return home to Connecticut. Contact the family law attorneys here at Greenberg and Krieger, LLP in Fairfield County, Connecticut for any questions you may have about family law and parental rights in Connecticut.