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Father wants child custody after mother marries sex offender

A father wants his two young daughters removed from their mother's care after she married a sex offender. He has taken the matter through the legal process and is now preparing to bring the case to the state's Supreme Court. The child custody case has sparked a great deal of debate in Florida and across the nation, with many people holding strong opinions on what the parents and the courts should do to ensure the safety and well-being of the children at the center of the struggle.

The mother has primary custody of the girls and married a man who was convicted of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter from a previous marriage. He spent four years in prison for that crime and underwent various levels of sex offender treatment while incarcerated. In the family's state of residence, the law states that no parent who lives with a convicted sex offender who harmed a child will be allowed custody of minor children, unless a court finds that the children are not at significant risk within the home.

The father argued in trial court and the Court of Appeals that the stepfather's previous conviction for sexually assaulting another child should prompt the removal of his daughters from the home. However, both courts found that there was no significant risk and left the girls within the home shared by their mother and stepfather. A therapist worked with the girls and reported to the court that there was no evidence that the stepfather was trying to gain the girls' trust or convince them to keep secrets from their mother. The father argues that the court did nothing to assess the risk that the stepfather has of reoffending.

As this case goes forward, any Florida parent can understand the fear and frustration that this father must experience on a daily basis. Preserving the safety of one's child is a primal instinct, and one that creates a great deal of tension and anxiety. Some may feel that the mother has a right to move on with her life and remarry, but choosing to expose her children to a known sex offender who has already abused one child placed in his care is difficult for many people to understand. Many will continue to follow the case to learn how the state's high court will come down on the child custody issue.

Source: omaha.com, "Dad who wants custody after mom marries convicted sex offender takes case to Supreme Court", Joe Duggan, Jan. 28, 2016

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