published Friday, February 17th, 2012

Whitfield County: Guatemalan couple loses another legal battle to regain custody of their children

  • photo
    Domitina Mendez holds photos of two of her children, Ever Mendez, left, age 5, and Debbi Mendez, age 3. She and her husband, Ovidio Mendez are Guatemalan indigenous Mayans who lost custody of their five children when the Georgia Department of Child Protective Services took their children in 2008. In June a Whitfield County judge permanently removed their parental rights in part because they don't speak English and the judge felt the parrents couldn't take care of the children's special needs and dozens of monthly doctor's visits.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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A Whitfield County Judge denied a Guatemalan couple a motion to reconsider their parental rights termination.

The couple lost custody of their five children, all of whom have severe physical disabilities, in 2008.

Last year, Judge Connie Baylock terminated their rights because “she didn’t believe the parents could care adequately for the five children with their complicated medical needs and the dozens of medical appointments they require every month,” according to court documents.

On Thursday, Ovidio and Domitina Mendez, appeared once again in front of Baylock, to ask her to reconsider her decision, in part because their native language is not Spanish but Mam, one of Guatemala’s 23 dialects, and all court proceeding and psychological evaluations were conducted with a Spanish-language interpreter.

But Baylock wrote in her decision the couple never asked for a Mam interpreter.

Another issue was that the couple is not authorized to be in the country, to this the couple’s lawyer, Richard Murray said they had retained an immigration attorney with the help of the Guatemalan Consulate in Atlanta and their adjustment of status depended on them regaining custody of their children.

But Baylock said the main reason for termination was not their status, but their inability to care for the children.

Read more in tomorrow's edition of the Times Free Press.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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