State Supreme Court rules great-aunt can exercise guardianship over abused child

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Nov. 16 — CONCORD – The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an infant’s great-aunt could exercise guardianship over the child, overturning the Children, Youth and Families Division, which said it had custody of the child. full legal custody of the child.

The unanimous decision overturned a decision made by Concord Family Court and returns the case to family court for a judge to consider the great-aunt’s guardianship application.

His lawyer said the ruling could impact other cases where the DCYF has rejected guardianship efforts for parents of abused or neglected children.

“We just want a photo to show the justice system that our client really wants to be involved and protect the best interests of the child,” said Michael Lewis, a Concord lawyer involved in the case. “Our system shouldn’t be fighting this.”

Jake Leon, a spokesperson for the agency which includes the DCYF, said he couldn’t comment, since the ruling was just released on Tuesday. He referred a reporter to Attorney General John Formella’s office, who did not respond to an email.

According to the ruling, parents in British Columbia are homeless and addicted to drugs; Shortly after the baby was born, the DCYF took legal action against the parents for abuse and neglect.

A court granted the agency “protective supervision” of the child, and DYCF placed the child in foster care.

Within days, the great aunt filed papers for the guardianship of the baby. The mother gave her consent a few days later.

Lewis said his client is a successful real estate executive in Illinois who has temporarily moved to New Hampshire to help and file a trusteeship claim.

The DCYF decided to dismiss the case, arguing that he had a “legal relationship” with the child, and Circuit Court judge Beth Leonard ruled that the DCYF had “legal custody” and that the laws State gave DCYF priority over trusteeship in such cases.

In a seven-page order, Judge Patrick Donovan ruled that state law allows the DCYF to retain legal custody of the child, but that does not preclude a judge from appointing a guardian.

The guardian, however, could not modify or change custody orders, he wrote.

“If a person or authorized body other than the guardian has ‘legal custody’ of the child, the guardian does not have the power to remove the child from his or her home, foster home or other residential placement”, he wrote.

Lewis said his client will return to court to seek guardianship.

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