Child custody disputes in Georgia and elsewhere often involve difficult decisions. When a judge must determine whether or not to terminate a mother's parental rights, the deliberation is necessarily painstaking. Consider the child custody case of an Illinois woman currently in prison and fighting against the termination of her parental rights.

The 26-year-old woman, a Myanmar native, fled to the United States to escape corruption in her home land. She became pregnant, though hid her condition from her family because she was afraid she would be ridiculed and rejected. The baby was born in June of 2009, and the mother left her on her neighbor's lawn. The neighbor found the baby, alerted by a barking dog. The child was placed in foster care, and the mother arrested.

Last October, she pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice; on one condition that prosecutors would not seek to terminate her parental rights. Prosecutors agreed, and the woman was sentenced to three years in prison. She has not been allowed to see the baby while in prison, and she is due to be released to probation in January.

The baby's Wisconsin foster parents now seek to adopt her. Despite their promise, prosecutors are involved in the adoption proceedings. The mother's attorneys moved to hold the prosecutors in contempt of court. The court ruled that, while prosecutors may have erred, the mother's relief is to seek to reopen her criminal plea and sentencing.

Though the prosecutors are doing exactly what they promised not to do, the court has turned a deaf ear. A guardian appointed for the baby has petitioned to terminate the mother's parental rights, citing the abandonment. The mother's attorney argues the woman came to the US to escape injustices in Myanmar and has now fallen victim to the injustice of not being given the full benefit of her plea. But the judge has said the goal of the civil proceedings should no longer be to reunite mother and child, but to seek substitute care until the mother's parental rights can be terminated.

It is rare to terminate parental rights; though courts strive to do what they believe is in the child's best interests. People may differ about the correct child custody answer. In Georgia, an attorney dedicated to helping people accomplish what is best for their child may provide some support and assistance.

Source: mySA, "Imprisoned woman fighting for child's custody," Aug. 11, 2011