By Kelly Moran
RIVERSIDE – A father was awarded temporary sole custody of his daughter after attending Family Law Court in Riverside Wednesday morning, although the decision resulted from the presiding judge being caught between a rock and a hard place.
“The court has to choose between a parent who recently used methamphetamines, and a mother who’s probably a regular drinker, who lives in a home with constant domestic violence which is escalating, and she won’t share a child with dad,” said Judge Mickie Reed of Riverside County Superior Court.
“Enough is enough,” Judge Reed continued, “this is the worst thing that can happen to a child, to be fought over every day for years and never have any peace, so it has to end.”
Wednesday’s hearing was held after a report of domestic violence and potential child abuse, including sexual abuse, that came up in past proceedings for this case.
Complications arose between the parents’ previous custody agreement when the father, Chrishawn Williams, claimed that the mother, Jessica Robertson, would not hand over the daughter, while Robertson claimed that Williams didn’t show up to collect the child.
Williams’ and Robertson’s shared child has been “a subject at issue for at least six years if not more,” according to Judge Reed.
Tecla Lunak, the mother’s attorney, explained that her client and her client’s daughter have both been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have been tested but have not received their results.
Either way, Judge Reed indicated that the child is not in a safe environment with the mother.
Reed explained that in 2019 and 2020 there were “four different requests for a restraining order filed by Miss Robertson against her current partner.”
For three out of these four incidents, the child was present, and put in harm’s way. According to Robertson’s recorded statement, in the first reported incident, her partner “pulled out a gun and threatened to kill her and her children.
“This child cannot remain in this situation,” said Judge Reed, “mom has repeatedly failed to follow court orders, I have a situation where dad has recently used methamphetamines, mom has indications for sure she’s drinking to that level, [when] there are orders that nobody is supposed to consume alcohol.”
Judge Reed speculated that maybe “Robertson makes up lies… or it could be that she’s a true victim of domestic violence and is endangering this child.”
The possibility that the child is lying for her mother also came up, as Judge Reed detailed the recent request from the mother in which she wanted sole custody with no visitation rights for the father based on sexual abuse allegations from 2010 pointed toward the father.
“What the child told the investigator does not match at all what mom is saying in her restraining order request,” said Judge Reed. The court had also already denied Robertson’s request.
Ultimately, Judge Reed handed over full legal and physical custody of the child to Williams, and mandated that “the child is enrolled in counseling,” and “that temporarily, mother… is to have no visit with this child.
“I have to give this child some peace,” Judge Read said, “for at least a little while, no more police officers, no more domestic violence, no more drinking, no more drugs.”
Williams must continue to attend his drug program, while Robertson will have to undergo an “alcohol assessment” by a valid, court-approved evaluator. Robertson will also go to domestic violence victim counseling, and her current partner is not allowed to be near the child.
Judge Reed requested police be present when Williams picks up the child from Robertson, as she expressed concerns for the mother’s situation with her current partner.
“I don’t want this to end up being a permanent order,” Judge Reed said, “I really want this child to have two parents, but I want everyone to be safe and not hear about it on the news tonight.”
Both parents will also have to attend three Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous classes each week.
Williams, who previously tested positive for having marijuana in his system, will have to refrain from drinking or consuming any drug while he has custody of his child. Though Williams had tested positive for methamphetamines in the past, his most recent test was negative.
“You can choose to have your child, or you can choose to smoke marijuana,” said Judge Reed.
The court appointed Carol Adams to represent the child as minor’s counsel, and all involved parties will return to court on Jan. 6 to reevaluate the situation further.
Judge Reed let both parents know that their case might be moved to juvenile court, depending on the content of the minor’s counsel report. She also indicated that placing the child in foster care “might be the very best thing for this child at this point,” though no permanent decisions surrounding that possibility were made.
Kelly Moran is currently a senior at Santa Clara University, originally from Connecticut. She is majoring in English, with a focus on British Literature and Professional Writing, and is also minoring in Journalism.
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