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Pennsylvania mother temporarily loses child custody

A Pennsylvania teenager has been placed under the custody of Highland County Child Services following a court hearing in which her mother tested positive for drugs. The 16-year-old girl was in trouble with the law herself, after she admitted to leaving her mother's residence without first gaining permission, which represented a violation of the girl's probation. This case highlights how criminal proceedings and drug use can affect a parent's right to child custody.

The 16-year-old girl's probation stems from a domestic violence violation committed against her father in 2012. The assistant prosecutor who was representing the state in this case asked that the girl be placed under temporary custody at Child Services. The girl's attorney responded by asking that custody go to her mother. Nevertheless, the mother's drug tests were positive for cocaine and marijuana, and she was not allowed to receive child custody.

The mother ultimately admitted to the court that she had contributed to a minor's delinquency. She was placed on reporting probation with a suspended sentence of 180 days. Because the mother tested positive for the drugs, the judge decided that it was in the girl's best interest to be held in temporary custody of child services. He also warned the girl that if she ran away again, she would be placed in a detention center.

Another individual present at the courtroom requested guardianship of the girl. However, the judge said that a previous custody action in juvenile court prevented him from processing the request. The girl's parents had divorced a year previous, and the mother had received child custody. In cases where a child is placed under temporary guardianship of the government, other parties may be able to step forward to request the child's release into their care. Child custody matters involving parents who have been accused of using drugs can be complex and emotional to navigate and can become a mix of both criminal and family law issues.

Source: The Times Gazette, "No custody for mom with failed drug screens" Angela Shepherd, Jun. 16, 2014

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