Child custody case to study constitutional protections

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A court hearing is scheduled tomorrow on arguments that allege the basic child custody procedures used by judges in Bradley County, Tenn., are unconstitutionally biased in favor of one parent.

According to Thorne, the case before Circuit Judge J. Michael Sharp is testing the court procedures used in the child custody case of 3-year-old Kate Hopkins, which began in 2007.

After more than two years in court and five different judges, the case is set for trial beginning May 27 in Sharp's courtroom. But Sharp is hearing the constitutional issues before the rest of the case is heard.

Attorney Jeffrey Miller will argue on behalf of fit Tennessee parents and their children, and an attorney from the Tennessee attorney general's office, Warren Jasper, is expected to argue on behalf of the standard procedures.

According to a statement from Thorne, one of the procedures that will be challenged is the "80-day rule" created by local judges. It automatically takes effect as soon as a child custody case is filed, allowing one parent only 80 days a year with the child while the other parent is allowed 285 days – regardless of circumstances.

The rule, Miller argues, discriminates against one parent, violating the principle of equal protection as well as due process, since it is imposed without a hearing.

Click here read more about this case.


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