Friday, May 23, 2008

Texas Court Determined Children Wrongly Removed from Polygamist Ranch

"The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger” – Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals on May 22, 2008

Just two days ago on this blog, I wrote about allegations that children removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) ranch in El Dorado, TX were being interrogated without legal counsel. Since that post, the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals has determined that these same children should never have been removed from their homes in the first place!

Texas State law allows for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to take emergency possession of a child if authorities have reason to suspect that there is an "immediate danger to the physical health or safety" that absolutely requires removal of the children.

To summarize a complicated legal situation, the recent raid on the FLDS ranch was determined not to meet state criteria for the following reasons:

  1. Authorities treated the entire complex as one household, taking allegations of abuse in one instance and assuming the same crime was occurring in all families;
  1. Real measures were not taken to remedy the problem without implementing the drastic step of removing all children from their parents; and
  1. Evidence of a questionable environment did not reach the level of proving an “imminent” threat to the children’s safety.

As of this writing, the children still remain in state custody. The lower court has ten (10) days to reverse its actions, or the Court of Appeals will take the steps necessary to return the boys and girls to their homes. It is widely speculated that the state will appeal the decision reached on Thursday, so you can expect several more rounds of courtroom activity involving the residents of the Yearning for Zion ranch. So stay tuned for the next round to take place in the Texas Supreme Court.

While the raid on the FLDS sect produces family law dilemmas on a scale rarely seen, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP believe that all legal issues involving families are sensitive and deserve great care and attention. In short, it is all about the best interest of the children. Please let us know if we can be of assistance to you.

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