Arizona readers may be aware of an unusual custody battle concerning the risks of children living with convicted sex offenders. The child custody case features a father who became concerned upon learning that his former wife had married a convicted child molester. The man's daughters, ages 15 and 17, are currently living in their mother's home, where their stepfather also resides.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the child who was harmed was the man's 15-year-old stepdaughter at the time the crimes took place. Fearing for the safety of his own daughters, the father filed for full physical custody of the girls. However, he lost his case at both the District Court and Court of Appeals levels. The case recently went before the state's Supreme Court, which upheld the decisions of the lower courts. In making that determination, the court found that the father had not presented sufficient evidence to support his claim that the girls were at risk simply by living under the same roof as a convicted sex offender.
This leaves the father with little recourse, other than re-approaching the court with some form of proof that his children are at imminent risk of harm, or have already been harmed. Otherwise, it appears that the laws in this family's state of residence support the custodial parent's right to choose where and with whom her children will live. One of the justices in the recent case suggested that individuals who are unhappy with the outcome should promote change at the legislative level, as there is currently no law in place that prevents convicted sex offenders from retaining child custody rights.
Parents in Arizona and across the country can only imagine the distress of this father, who is clearly concerned about the welfare and well-being of his daughters. However, viewed from a different perspective, the outcome of this case supports the mother's parental rights. The case is also a cautionary tale concerning the need to present clear and compelling proof when asking for a child custody modification.
Source: omaha.com, "Convicted sex offender can remain in home with stepdaughters, Nebraska Supreme Court rules", Joe Duggan, Aug. 22, 2016