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Family law: do child custody managers have too much power?

Texas parents who divorce and are involved in high-conflict relationships might be interested in a recent issue outlining concerns over child custody case managers in another state. Parents are crying foul over the powers these case managers have in that jurisdiction and how they feel powerless to stop their custody agreements from being altered without their knowledge. These case managers tend to be involved in family law disputes over children when the parents have potentially volatile relationships.

One parent affected by the powers of a case manager had custody stripped after what she described as private conversations between the case manager and presiding judge. The woman had custody of her daughter for about 10 years before the manager recommended that custody be transferred to the father. Now she is only allowed to see her daughter for an hour a week under supervised visitation. These case managers are said to have sweeping authority with no requirement to be licensed and also have little accountability. Concerns about them allegedly abusing their authority are increasing, and now a bill is heading toward the legislature of the state involved to require that case managers have increasingly specific qualifications before being hired for the position.

The Kansas woman who lost custody of her daughter claims she requested hearings several times to address the case manager’s recommendation but was denied, and custody was awarded to the father purportedly on the say-so of the case manager. She fought back, and now her matter is scheduled to be heard before a Kansas appellate court on May 15. The mother claims she has a constitutional right to hear the evidence the case manager used to make the custody recommendation and to formally respond and challenge any allegations.

Her case could affect custody case managers throughout Kansas, requiring clarification of their roles. While it remains to be seen how these issues will be resolved, Texas parents involved in family law disputes may understand this dilemma as they often have to deal with the recommendations of a court-appointed third party that may sway a court one way or the other. It is never easy to have such a personal matter subject to the opinions and whims of others, and those involved in child custody litigation in our state would do well to fully prepare so as to ensure that a court deciding any unresolved issues has all of the relevant facts and circumstances to consider.

Source: The Topeka Capital-Journal, “Child custody case managers scrutinized,” Andy Marso, April 22, 2012

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