Could Octomom Lose Custody of Her Children?

Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as “Octomom,” is famous for giving birth to octuplets in 2009. In addition to her octuplets, Octomom has six other children. Recently Octomom has been criticized in the news for poor parenting. The controversy surrounded a complaint filed by her hair stylist who claimed that the fourteen children were living in substandard conditions. TMZ has reported that only one toilet is operating in the home, which is supplemented with portable toilets located outside in the backyard. According to Suleman, she could not afford to repair the other toilet in the home because the quote of $150 was too expensive. In addition to living in an unsanitary environment, the hair stylist provided photos that suggest the children were locked in a room while Suleman had her hair done.

These images have allegedly sparked an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS), which will determine whether the children are at risk of any substantial harm. The photos depict a messy house with writing on the walls. The hair stylist has also provided photographs of the outdoor toilets. CPS has responded by saying that a messy house does not violate any law and methods of potty training are within the parent’s discretion.

If CPS determines that the children should be permitted to remain in the home up to 12 months of services may be provided to the family in order to improve conditions for the children. If CPS determines that the children are in danger, it will file a petition in Juvenile Court and ask that the children be removed from Suleman’s home. If the children are removed, they may be placed with a relative or in foster care depending on the particular circumstances. Further, Suleman will need to take parenting classes and counseling if she wished to reunify with her children. Up to 18 months of services will be provided if a parent is making efforts toward reunification. If she does not satisfy the court’s concerns, the children could be placed with a legal guardian or even adopted by another person(s).

Like the hairstylist did in the Octomom case, community members have the opportunity to report suspected abuse or neglect of children. Under California law child abuse includes any of the following: the non-accidental physical injury of the child, willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment, sexual abuse, and neglectful abuse including failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision.

In any child custody case the most important consideration is the health, safety and welfare of the child. If one parent is not addressing these concerns, typically his or her time with the child is reduced and the child spends more time with the more adequate parent. However, the Suleman case involves a different scenario. Suleman underwent in vitro fertilization and the children do not have a father recognized by the family court system. Therefore, governmental agencies may become involved in ensuring the children are properly cared for.

Please contact us if you have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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