Visitation dispute goes 'nuclear' between mom and grandparents
A highly-acrimonious dispute over whether the grandparents of a deceased man will be allowed to host their 5-year-old granddaughter for court-ordered visitation is now in its third year, and a Cass County family court judge has just taken an unusual step. Ruling that the mother, a former Ashland resident who now lives in Florida, was in criminal contempt of court when she didn't show up at a recent hearing, he has issued an arrest warrant that could result in the woman's extradition from Florida.
The visitation dispute between the mother and her ex-husband's parents first arose in 2008, when the ex-husband was murdered, allegedly by a member of the mother's family. The little girl's grandparents have been seeking visitation with the little girl since their son's death.
In 2010, the judge ordered the mother to allow the visits and, apparently so fed up with the case he told the young mother, "There is an evil in you."
After that order, the woman moved to Florida. The judge held her in civil contempt, which results in fines. He tried to have her extradited, but she spent five months in jail before defeating that order.
With the judge now holding her in criminal contempt, she could face jail time. In fact, the judge could theoretically add more criminal contempt citations and could even hold her indefinitely until she agrees.
One legal expert interviewed by the Illinois Times commented that this is meant to force the issue. "I don't think there's a nuclear option here," the expert commented. But if this isn't the "nuclear option," it's unclear what would be.
The mom defends her actions saying that, when the little girl has visited the grandparents before, she has come back in a quiet, scared mood and seems like a different child.
"She's not safe, she doesn't know them," she says.
She also claims she has never denied the grandparents visitation -- as long as it was in Florida.
The grandmother says she feels confident they'll see their granddaughter again. They are committed to giving the girl a chance to know her dad, at least through his surviving family, and to know that his side of the family loves her. She says she has tried to reason with the mother, even reassuring her that "no one wants to take [her] from you."
No one knows what the outcome of this visitation dispute may mean. If the mom goes to jail, the grandparents may even be granted custody, at least until she is released.
- The Illinois Times, "Upping the ante: Jennifer Watkins faces jail," Bruce Rushton, April 4, 2013
- WKMG.com, "Mother in visitation fight with child's grandparents after husband's murder," Amaka Ubaka, March 27, 2013