June 13, 2019
After I resolved the Ramey case by working out an agreement with the biological parent to establish custody and visitation, I was also able to work out custody and visitation arrangement in one of the other cases we got a favorable decision on from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
As you recall, Ramey and the other two cases came along after Windsor, Bishop and Eldredge; a United States Supreme Court Case, an Oklahoma Case out of the Western District and an Oklahoma Supreme Court case, respectively.
Sadly, though, Ms. Eldredge, the case that established a non-biological parent did have standing to pursue a best interest hearing, still was languishing through the courts and not seeing her children. She came to Inner Vision Legal to ask for help.
Once the decision came down that Ms. Eldredge had standing she kept trying to get back in front of the court to get some type of custody and visitation arrangement figured out. In fact, she was delayed just the right amount of time that when she came to see me – the other side decided to file a Petition for Adoption.
Here this mother had fought all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to be recognized as a mother, had won and established law for many other families, and now a petition was filed to try to strip her of her rights as that mother. This is when Ms. Eldredge hired Inner Vision Legal.
Long story, short, we had the AWOC, (Adoption Without Consent of the Mother) hearing and we weren’t successful in that hearing based on the fact that our client had not paid child support for the last year. We argued vehemently that she had paid up until the other side basically refused to take her child support but ultimately the court found in the other sides favor.
In Oklahoma though, after the AWOC hearing, if the parent is not successful, they have a right to a Best Interest Hearing. Basically, the parent adopting the child has to prove that it is in the child’s best interest to terminate the other parent’s rights.
After several days of testimony, the Court ruled in our favor. It would not be in the children’s best interest to terminate Ms. Eldredge’s rights as a parent. The other side appealed.
The court used the Clear and Convincing Standard of Review, which was what the District Court also used to determine that the District Court decision was correct. They even went so far as to acknowledge in their order the lengths the biological parent had gone to alienate the children from Ms. Eldredge:
“It is also significant that Julie remained involved with the children on a daily and monthly basis after the parties’ separation, until Karen [Taylor] unilaterally withdrew Julie’s contact with the children, Julie [Eldedge] took legal steps and filed a paternity action in order to enforce her parental rights to the children. And, when Julie [Eldedge] was successful in establishing her de facto parental rights in the district court and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the trial court found Appellants [Taylor] continued to exclude Julie from the children. Now, Appellant’s [Taylor] seek to terminate Julie’s parental rights through a step-parent adoption. These facts demonstrate Julie’s lack of contact with the children was not due to her own voluntary absence, but was directly attributable to Karen’s obstruction. OK CIV APP Case No. 115810, ¶14.”
After establishing that Ms. Eldredge was a parent and that there was not going to be a Step-parent adoption that would terminate her parental rights, custody and visitation were finally established through mediation. Four years later!
As of now, the children enjoy almost equal time with both Ms. Eldredge and the bio parent, which is all she wanted from the beginning of her case.