When the Department of Children’s Services took Alena from her mother for neglect, her grandparents jumped in. John and Cindy Moffit took her from DCS custody at 8 months, put her in her own carefully decorated room and loved her.
“Then the circus began,” said John Moffit.
Alena’s mother sued to regain custody, as did a woman named Terri Rivera. Rivera isn’t a blood relative but claimed to have taken care of Alena before the Moffits stepped in.
Rivera had been arrested in 1999 for hiring a hit man to kill her then-husband for $500. When the hit man didn’t follow through, Rivera confessed to putting black widow spiders in her husband’s bed. She was charged with attempted murder for the spiders. She pleaded down to aggravated assault and solicitation to commit murder and was put on 12 years probation, which was violated in 2003 for marijuana.
The Moffits figured this was a simple case and decided to represent themselves. Surely, they thought, the court would not give Alena to a non-blood relative with such a criminal record.
So the Moffits representing themselves made a critical legal mistake in their pleadings. Opposing attorneys demanded they be removed from the case. Forced by law, the judge dismissed the Moffits’ attempt to win permanent guardianship.
The judge was left to rule between the DCS-judged unfit mother and Rivera. The grandparents had no rights and no case.
Rivera won permanent guardianship.
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Grandparents Fight To Regain Custody Of Child – 2-Year-Old Given To Woman Charged With Attempted Murder