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Custody of 3-year-old girl awarded to Georgia sex offender

This week, a girl celebrated her fourth birthday in Georgia. For young children, birthdays are usually a happy and exciting occasion, filled with cake and presents, friends and family. Yet this birthday probably won't be like most for this young girl. Earlier this month, she was taken from her grandparents, with whom she has lived since birth, and sent to live with her deceased mother's former husband, a registered sex offender, after a court granted him full physical custody of the girl.

When the girl was born, her mother was married to the sex offender, who had been forced to register as such after impregnating the mother when she was 14 years old. Although the girl is not the biological daughter of the sex offender, she was deemed to be his legal daughter because he was married to her mother when she was born.

The sex offender had filed for divorce from the mother just before the girl was born, citing the mother's infidelity as grounds for the split. The mother died just a month after giving birth, and the girl went to live with her maternal grandparents in Florida.

Recently, the girl's grandmother filed a petition with the Florida family court, seeking to adopt her granddaughter. Upon receiving notice of the petition, the sex offender filed a motion for custody of the girl, which was granted on the basis of the sex offender's legal status as the girl's father. The girl was forced to move from her grandparents' home in Florida to Georgia, where the sex offender resides.

The grandmother is likely to appeal the judge's decision, with assistance from the Department of Child and Family Services. It is difficult to believe that moving the child away from the home she has known her whole life is in her best interest, regardless of the fact that she will now live with a registered sex offender who she does not know and to whom she has no biological relationship.

Source: ABC News, "Grandmother, Sex Offender Fight for Custody of Child," Dean Schabner, 17 July 2011

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