Who should have custody of the teenager? His mother, the mother’s alleged rapist, or someone else? | Livingston/Tangipahoa
A Tangipahoa parish judge opened a hearing on Friday into who should have custody of a teenage girl – the girl’s mother or the man accused of raping the woman 17 years ago.
John Barnes, 46, who only learned of the girl’s existence years later, had joint custody of the girl until last March when he was awarded sole custody, WBRZ previously reported . In a court hearing earlier this summer, 21st Judicial District Judge Jeff Cashe revoked custody of Barnes and placed the girl with guardians rather than award full custody to her mother.
Barnes and the woman agreed on who should have custody of the girl, and they alternated custody of the child over the weekend.
The girl, through her lawyer, asked Cashe on Friday to let her stay with the couple she has been living with for the past month. The guardians were agreed upon by Barnes and the mother.
Friday’s hearing took place well after business hours and included closed-door testimony from the girl and Ministry of Children and Family Services staff.
The child’s mother says she was 16 when Barnes raped her, but she did not file a complaint with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office until 2015. Deputies only looked into the case only this year and then turned it over to the district attorney. Desk.
Friday’s hearing was to consider whether Cashe should permanently end Barnes’ parental rights, given the rape charge. At the time the child was conceived, Barnes was 30 and the mother was 16 and unable to consent to sexual contact with someone much older than her.
Family law experts have said that under Louisiana’s civil code, a formal rape conviction would not be necessary to terminate parental rights if the child is conceived as a result of statutory rape or of a criminal carnal relationship with a minor.
At Friday’s hearing, Barnes spoke and said he believed looking at the statutes, “at face value”, it is illegal for a 16-year-old and a 30-year-old to d have sex.
But he testified that the woman said she was “a student that night” and refused to acknowledge that she was in fact underage. Eventually, the mother’s attorney told Barnes, after repeatedly interrupting him, to “shut his mouth.”
The judge had given Barnes full custody of the child in March, a month after the mother filed a motion detailing the rape charge for the first time in the court filing. Barnes won custody after charging the mother with contempt for violating a court order over the daughter’s possession of a phone, although court documents do not detail the reasoning behind the judge’s decision.
Last month, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office apologized for not working on the mother’s rape charge sooner.
“(O) our department completely dropped the ball, and we just have to own up to our mistake,” the sheriff’s office said.