A Massachusetts judge ruled Tuesday that the Connecticut teen in the middle of a contentious custody battle between her parents and the state will remain in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
The Boston Globe reported that Suffolk County juvenile court Judge Joseph Johnston granted “permanent” custody to the state DCF. This decision was in response to a motion filed by Lou and Linda Pelletier, Justina’s parents, and her court-appointed lawyer for a “conditional custody” plan. Up until this point, DCF only had temporary custody of Justina, which it had maintained for more than a year.
Mat Staver, attorney and founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told TheBlaze that as he understands the order, filed Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Children and Families will retain custody of Justina for now.
“This is just completely unacceptable. The family asked us to pursue any other opportunities and appeals,” Staver said. “The family is beyond fed-up.”
In response to the Boston Globe’s report that the state will retain “permanent” custody, Staver said, “there’s no way they could have done that.”
“I’ll have to look into that more, but I can’t imagine this is the case in this situation,” he said.
Staver’s own motion to be formally admitted onto the case as an attorney for Lou and Linda Pelletier was denied by the judge.
The family’s spokesman Rev. Patrick Mahoney also told TheBlaze Tuesday night that, in his understanding, the ruling is not meant to imply that Justina will never be returned to her parents.
“It’s not a lie, but it’s not 100 percent accurate,” Mahoney told TheBlaze. “In putting the word [‘permanent’] out without explaining it, it appears to the casual reader that somehow the Pelletiers have completely lost of Justina until she’s 18 years old and that’s not the case.”
Mahoney said in a statement that the Pelletiers”are crushed and heartbroken to see their daughter violated like this. They are rightfully worried for her safety.”
DCF in a statement maintained that its “primary goal has always been the health and wellbeing of Justina, and finding a solution that would allow her to return to Connecticut.”
“That has not changed in the face of this ruling,” the statement continued. “The department is exploring all options that will allow Justina to return to her home state where she has the support of her friends, family, school and community.”
The agency also clarified that the authority remains with the court to rule on custody matters. Staver said the Pelletiers will be allowed to file another motion with the court to try and obtain custody again through the legal system on May 25.
Lou and Linda Pelletier have been fighting to regain custody of their daughter after allegations of medical child abuse arose 14 months ago.