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California child custody could be affected by outside ruling

A significant legal battle has risen in an out-of-state family court regarding a legal question that could affect veterans across the country. The case arises from a child custody case being heard involving a veteran of the Afghanistan war. The man, who is seeking custody of his 11-month-old son, wants his psychiatrist to testify on his behalf, a common practice among California parents in child custody litigation who are being treated for psychological issues.

The Veterans Hospital, through the United State's Attorneys' Office, has objected to allowing the psychiatrist to testify. They have argued that the VA has discretion in determining whether to allow one of their psychiatrists to attend such a hearing. The psychiatrist in this case is treating the veteran for PTSD.

The U.S. Attorney stated that if they were denied their requested relief, that they would seek to have the federal court review the ruling. As a result of the recent litigation, the family court judge has delayed the custody trial until the fall. The judge has also granted all the parties involved further time to file documents with the court in support of their position.

This New York case may have implications in California and across the country due to the federal government getting involved. In many child custody cases, a party may seek to have their treatment provider testify at a hearing so they can establish that they are receiving the treatment they need to provide a stable home for their child. If the judge rules in favor of the government, this could provide a significant road block for veterans in attempting to present all of the favorable evidence they have that supports their position.

Source: Syracuse.com, "Family Court judge postpones decision on whether to force VA psychiatrist to testify in veteran's custody case," Jim O'Hara, July 31, 2012

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