Topeka, Kan. -- A mother said her daughter was taken away from her and she's never been allowed her day in court to fight for her child. The woman's story has now inspired lawmakers to look into what they can do to change the system.
Karen Williams finally had a day in court Tuesday, but it wasn't the custody hearing she had hoped for. She went to the Kansas Appellate Court arguing that her constitutional rights were violated when a Douglas County judge removed her daughter from her custody all based on the word of a court appointed case manager. The case manager suggested to the judge that there was "probable abuse."
"She's never had to give any facts to back up these allegations," says Williams, "and all I'm asking for is the right to come to court and defend myself."
Williams and her husband say what's actually going on is that they questioned the case manager.
"Anyone who challenges her she's going to retaliate," Williams says.
Her new husband Stan Williams agrees, adding that the case manager isn't neutral, but instead, she "picks sides."
"I'm not the only person out here who has experienced this," Karen Williams adds, "case managers have no governing body, no one is looking over their shoulder except for the judge who put them there."
Williams story has inspired some law makers to investigate the problem. Kansas Representative Joe Patton (R-Topeka) wants to change the law to require educational standards for case managers, and he wants judges to be required to have a hearing if there's a dispute over child custody, instead of just signing off on case manager's recommendations.
"It was never the legislatures intent to deny parties a hearing, especially involving children," Rep Patton says, "so if one party or the other requests a hearing they should get that hearing."
"I'm very excited the legislature is getting involved and are recognizing this is a serious problem," says Williams.
Williams hopes a law change will help in the future but right now her focus is still on her own daughter.
"And I'm hopeful that its going to turn around here and we'll get our day in court," Williams says, "that's what we wanted."
Representative Patton says his bills were introduced so late in the legislative session there may not be enough time to get it passed now. But if he has to introduce it again next session he thinks it ought to pass pretty easily.