Issue of jurisdiction

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Issue of jurisdiction

Postby Marina » Fri Dec 07, 2007 10:36 am

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Agencies fight over safety of young children

Mike DeesonTampa, Florida - It is a tale of twos. Two states, two child protection teams, two judges, and two parents whose faces and names we will disguise to protect the children who are at the center of it all.

The father, who used to be stationed at Mac Dill, had shared custody of his two kids with his ex-wife. Neighbors say he was a good father. One former neighbor told us the kids would leave on Friday with no bruises and the would come back with bruises

The father complained several times to DCF, and took the kids to a psychologist who confirmed in this report.. the children had bruises after returning from their mothers. DCF concludes there was no abuse. Then when the dad was given order to go to Iraq Circuit Court Judge Kevin Carey gave full custody to the mother saying dad might return from Iraq a crack addict.

The former neighbor, who is also in the military, says to him that is prejudice against military members .

This summer, the children came to visit the dad in Alaska. He says his five-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son said they had a secret. He took the kids to a child abuse expert who had doctors look at her.

Doctors say they were shocked by what happened during a vaginal exam. The father says she started talking dirty on the table saying things like “ I love that, keep doing that, it feels good”

Experts say she had too much knowledge about sex.The children were then sent to therapist.

Al Levy then used drawings to try to bring the kids out and he says the drawings showed the children were hiding a deep secret.

The boy also told the therapist he is kicked in his private parts and his mother is thrown into a wall.

At that point the father went to court in Alaska to get an order to keep his kids full time. He says all the organizations that take care of kids here were trying very hard to keep the kids in Alaska, but the judge couldn't see around the jurisdiction issue.

In a conference call with Alaskan Judge Craig Stowers, you can hear Hillsborough Judge Kevin Carey chastising the father's attorney for suggestion child protection workers in Florida aren't doing the proper job.

Carey said, "...and I believe Mr. Hayes you're trying to do an end run around Florida courts by doing what you're doing. These issues need to be dealt with in Florida."

Alaskan Judge Stowers was shocked saying if he were to hear those comments in an Alaskan Court he would notify the presiding judge to review that.

Despite the Alaskan authorities concerns, which include a judge, reports from a psychologist, child protection workers and the folks in Florida at the Department of Children Families say they have a better overall understanding of the case.

DCF spokesman Andy Ritter says, "The group in Alaska hasn't been privy to all the information. I don't know if it is because they haven't asked for it or they've just heard from one parent."

But the father says, "I am hitting a brick wall. All my legal options are dwindling to nothing and I can't protect my children."

Mike Deeson,Tampa Bay's 10 News


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Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:06 pm

Postby Marina » Sat Mar 14, 2009 5:54 pm ... ive-couple

‘Like a death in the family': Local woman loses daughter to adoptive couple

By Kevin Haas
Posted Jan 31, 2009 @ 06:29 PM

BELVIDERE — Krystal Fulton cried as she said goodbye to her 2-year-old daughter for the last time in the lobby of the Boone County Courthouse last week. For now, it’s the conclusion of an agonizing custody battle with a couple from South Carolina.

“I was standing there, hugging her and kissing her, and the attorney just grabbed her and took her and gave her away,” Fulton said.

Also in the courthouse lobby to say goodbye was Aubrey’s biological father, Ralph Lowery Jr. “I just told her be good, to be the best she can be, and ‘I love you very much,’” Lowery said.

Minutes later was the joyous reunion of adoptive parents Mark and Mary Karl Boepple with the girl they raised for the first eight months of her life, before a court order forced them to return the baby to her biological mother.

So goes the legal battle that has sent a baby back and forth between South Carolina and Illinois while attorneys argued over which state has jurisdiction. It has cost thousands in attorney fees and consumed the lives of two families in two states since shortly after Fulton gave birth in 2006 to a baby she named Aubrey.

“There are no winners in a contested adoption case,” said Richard Lifshitz, who represented the adoptive parents. “These cases are never easy because there is a child involved. A child is not a car that’s being repossessed; it’s a thriving, living, breathing little person. The child is what’s most important, and I know that’s what’s most important to my clients.”

When the child changed hands for the third time Jan. 22, it left Fulton with only a slim chance to raise her daughter. The Illinois Supreme Court still could hear a petition for leave to appeal, but it does so in only about 3 percent to 6 percent of cases, a Supreme Court spokesman said. The South Carolina Supreme Court already has sided with the adoptive parents.

“Now that she’s already back, the chances are slim to none,” said Brian Fulton, father of 23-year-old Krystal Fulton. “They’re not going to continue to flip the child back and forth.”

The biological family is heartbroken over the loss of their child.

“We saw her say her first words and take her first steps,” Brian Fulton said. “It was like a death in the family.”

Krystal Fulton now lives with her parents in Boone County, where they helped her raise Aubrey and her half-brother, 4, and half-sister, 1.

But Fulton was a single mother, living alone and raising her oldest child when she got pregnant with Aubrey. In April 2006, seven months pregnant, she contacted an Illinois adoption agency called A Baby to Love.

“I was alone with just (my son), living in an apartment by myself. I didn’t think that I could handle that with two kids by myself,” Fulton said. “I knew what (he) had to go through without a dad, and I didn’t want that for my daughter.”

The Boepples hired an attorney to help her with the paperwork, and Fulton told the attorney she didn’t know the identity of the father. She told the attorney she was raped and only knew the father through a few friends. But no charges were ever brought against Lowery, the man who paternity tests later proved was the biological father.

Lowery never knew about the adoption and was told that the baby was stillborn. He didn’t find out he had a daughter — and that she had been sent to live with adoptive parents in South Carolina — until after the fact. He was notified by Fulton’s parents, who also learned about their granddaughter after the baby was gone, and then ignited a legal fight to get the child back.

Lowery said he would have never given up the baby if it were his choice and would have loved to raise her. He, too, hired an attorney to have the adoption overturned until legal costs became too much for him to pay.

He had been visiting Aubrey and caring for the child on various weekends while she lived in Illinois. When he said goodbye to her Jan. 22, he knew it might be for the last time.

Fulton gave birth to Aubrey on June 16, 2006, the day she first met the Boepples. She surrendered her custody rights 70.5 hours after giving birth, her attorneys said. Illinois adoption code says a parent cannot surrender the child less than 72 hours after the birth. But Fulton also signed a consent to jurisdiction under South Carolina law, which doesn’t have a 72-hour window, court documents stated. The conflict between the two states started a battle to decide which court’s jurisdiction supersedes the other.

Fulton gave up her parental rights when she agreed to South Carolina adoption law, Lifshitz said.

No determination has been made by any court as to who the proper persons to serve as parents are, and no court has determined what are the best interests of the child.

The baby left for South Carolina with the Boepples four days after her birth. Illinois trial courts ruled three months later that the father was not properly notified and the child must be returned to Illinois. The baby was returned to Fulton on Feb. 23, 2007. She was 8 months old.

But the Boepples also appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which heard the case and ruled in their favor in January 2008. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the baby must be returned to the adoptive parents. It took almost a year for that order to be enforced.

Fulton, acting under the Illinois law, did not return the baby. She was found in contempt in South Carolina in March. That’s when the Boepples showed up at her apartment door, demanding the child be turned over to them because of the South Carolina ruling, Fulton said. She refused to give up the toddler.

“After the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled they came to the apartment, where I lived with my kids, they banged on the door and said ‘I want my daughter,’” Fulton said. “I wouldn’t open the door, I was scared out of my mind, and so were the kids. They were out there for a good hour, maybe hour and a half.”

Fulton said she understood the frustrations they would have from being apart from their adopted child.

“I feel sorry for them, and I apologize for everything that happened. I know they love her and they care about her, but that’s my daughter, too,” Krystal Fulton said.

With Fulton refusing to give up the child, the case went back to the Illinois courts to confirm the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling. The court did just that in June. The Boepples decided they did not want Fulton to serve jail time for contempt, court documents show.

Fulton appealed the decision, and the transfer of the child was delayed until an appellate court ruling. The appellate court ruled with the adoptive family in December. Fulton requested to keep her daughter until the Illinois Supreme Court heard their petition, if the court indeed heard the case. That request was denied and the baby returned to the Boepples in the Boone County Courthouse on Jan. 22.

The Fulton family gathered in numbers at the courthouse that day, but didn’t get the goodbye they wanted.

“The turnover process was absolutely cold,” Brian Fulton said. “We didn’t have a room where we could be privately with the family, saying our goodbyes. We had to do it right in the lobby area, where everyone was conducting their daily business.”

The child is now living with the Boepples in South Carolina. They’ve kept in touch with the Fultons through telephone, updating them on Aubrey.

“Knowing my clients, I’m sure they’ll keep the communication lines open. That’s just the type of people they are,” Lifshitz said.

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