Maybe not, according to the California appeals court that overturned the ruling that allowed O.J. Simpson to get custody of them in the first place.
On November 10 of this year, the appeals court reversed the 1996 decision based on the fact that there were errors made during the original hearing. These errors or omissions are what enabled Louis and Juditha Brown (Nicole’s parents) to re-open a case that seemed to be decided. In fact, if O.J. goes back into court, battling his in-laws for custody, there is a chance that this time around he will not be the winning party. The appeals court cited five of the errors that were made in the original proceedings.
The first error was made when the court chose to ignore the whole murder issue. The fact that the children’s mother was brutally killed and that O.J. was still a defendant in the civil case was thought to be irrelevant. The court, in the interest of time, felt it best not to allow any evidence surrounding the murder to influence the custody ruling.
The second error occurred when the court used the wrong statute in it’s legal proceedings. It applied section 3041 of the Family Code, which deals with parents who suffer a loss of custody against their wishes. The Browns already had a guardianship in which O.J. had originally agreed to. The proceedings were actually to terminate that guardianship and so section 1601 of the Probate Code should have been used.
Because of the Code that was used, the Browns had the burden of proof to show that it would be detrimental to the children if their father had custody. Rather, the burden should have been upon him to prove that it was better for the children to be with him as the caregiver instead of the Browns. Thus the third error was made, It was very difficult to prove that O.J. was an unfit parent if none of the murder evidence was allowed.
Fourth, Nicole’s diaries — where she detailed physical abuse — were not allowed as evidence of Simpson’s violent tendencies. This made the burden of proof even more difficult for the Browns. The appeals court felt that the possibility of violence within the home was certainly worth examining.
The fifth error was the fact that there were no social service agencies looking after the welfare of the children. In most cases where there is the possible threat of domestic violence, an agency will intervene. Spousal abuse would most definitely be a trigger for social worker intervention, yet there were no outside professional opinions offered as to the fitness of Simpson as a parent.
Whether these errors were made because of O.J. Simpson’s celebrity status or by mere negligence of the court, they have introduced the possibility of the Brown’s reclaiming the children. In the final analysis, what this case shows is that there is a difference between child custody disputes and Guardianship proceedings. Because Simpson voluntarily had the Browns made guardians, the burden should have been on him to dissolve the guardianship and to use Family custody standards and parental preference was wrong.
The Simpson scenario, in all likelihood, is very different from what most of us might encounter in custody dispute. This case is a Probate Court Guardianship case and not a family law parent vs. grandparent case. With the eyes of the world watching, it will be interesting to see how it is resolved.