In October 2010, a mother pled guilty to felony obstruction of justice charges. At the time, she said that she was willing to enter the guilty plea, so long as her parental rights to her child were not terminated.
Unfortunately, the prosecutors are going back on their word and are attempting to terminate her parental rights in favor of the foster parents who have been caring for the child while the mother was in jail.
Regardless of the circumstances of the plea agreement, the judge determined that the mother should not be reunited with the child and that her parental rights should be terminated. He also recently ruled that the prosecutors should not have made this agreement with respect to the mother's parental rights. The judge has told the mother that she could file a post-conviction request to reopen her plea and sentence considering it was made under false pretenses.
The 26-year-old mother immigrated to the United States only within the last five years. Allegedly, in an effort to hide the fact that she was pregnant from her family, she gave birth to her child but abandoned the baby shortly after the birth. The guilty plea was made in relation to her allegedly lying to the police about the birth of her child.
Would she have pled guilty to the charges against her and been willing to go to jail if she knew that her parental rights would not be protected? She says that her main priority was always to protect her parental rights. In that light, one could reasonably suspect that she would not have made such an agreement.
This case raises several issues regarding child custody, parental rights, plea agreements, imprisoned parents and adoption. Pennsylvania parents should take note and be very careful about entering into a plea agreement concerning child custody and parental rights, because any such agreements may not be valid.
Source: The Chicago Tribune, "AP-IL-Child Custody Fight, 2nd Ld-Writethru, 502," 11 Aug 2011