One of the most difficult parts of a divorce can be coping with the idea that your children won't be with you at least part of the time, and in some cases, even a majority of the time. While it's natural to have some concerns regarding the kids' time spent with the other parent, when that mild uneasiness turns to fear for your children's well-being, the law can help ensure that your child is safe.
Unfortunately, however, the child welfare system isn't perfect, and in some instances, a parent may need additional reinforcements, such as an experienced attorney, to help them protect their children from the other parent. Recent tragic events in Receda, California, are a terrible reminder that even custody law can sometimes fail to protect children.
The Role of the Law in Protecting Children
In April 2021, 30-year-old Liliana Carrillo said she killed her three young children because she wanted to protect them from their father, her ex-boyfriend Erik Denton, also 30 years old. The former couple had been involved in a bitter custody battle, and Denton had sought custody of the children on March 1 after, he claimed, Carrillo appeared to have “lost touch with reality.”
Police found the bodies of Joanna, 3; Terry, 2; and 6-month old Sierra in Carrillo's apartment. All three children appeared to have been bludgeoned, and two of them were also drowned.
Numerous calls to Los Angeles County's welfare and police departments leading up to the deaths warned the agencies that Carrillo was a danger to her children. Denton had repeatedly told authorities that Carrillo battled postpartum depression for years, expressed suicidal thoughts, self-medicated with marijuana, and was mental unstable. Social workers kept the children with their mother, however, even over a court order from a Tulare County, California judge that limited Carrillo's custody.
How to Protect Your Children from a Dangerous Co-Parent
In the above case, Denton appeared to have done all the right things in trying to protect his children, and still, the system failed them. If you have serious concerns for your children's safety or with their other parent's ability to care for them, in addition to notifying your local child welfare agency, your next legal steps could include the following:
- File for sole physical custody
- Request supervised visits for the co-parent
- Obtain a protection order (also called protection from abuse (PFA) or restraining order) if the co-parent has harmed or threatened to harm you or your children
Note that in pursuing any of these avenues, documentation and evidence of your allegations — police reports, medical records, eyewitness testimony of others — will help convince the court that your children need protection and that you aren't making false accusations.
Helping Parents Keep Their Children Safe
Joseph D. Lento is an experienced family law attorney who helps parents involved in custody disputes. If you feel that your custody situation requires professional legal advice from an experienced lawyer and possibly even intervention, contact the Lento Law Firm at (800) 535-3686 to discuss your situation today.
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