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State Supreme Court rules in favor of immigrant mother

The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled state child custody and adoption laws were not followed when lower courts severed the parental rights of a Guatemalan mother. The Guatemalan mother was arrested during an immigration raid that occurred in 2007 and the mother lost her custody rights when an American couple adopted her son. The story of the Guatemalan mother's journey to get her child back does not end yet because the court's decision did not rule on an automatic return of the child.

Instead the court ruled that relevant custody reports must be conducted on the boy, the adoptive parents and the mother. Additionally, the court said that a new trial must be heard regarding the mother's parental rights. The court concluded that serious procedural errors were committed in allowing the adoption by the American parents to occur. Three of the justices said in the opinion that they would have returned the boy back to the mother immediately because they were not convinced that the mother abandoned the child.

The child custody issue began when the mother was arrested at a poultry plant during an immigration raid. The mother was sentenced to two years in prison after she pled guilty to aggravated identity theft. A couple who had been helping the mother's family care for her child informed the current adoptive parents of the child's status. The mother left prison last year and began the fight to regain custody of her child.

The attorney for the adoptive parents said the mother's parental rights were terminated because she failed to provide for the child and did not maintain contact with the child. The attorney for the mother argues that the mother never received proper legal representation throughout the custody battle and that the mother did not abandon her child.

Source: The Associated Press, "Missouri court sides with immigrant in adoption appeal," 1/25/11

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