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September 08, 1994 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-08

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 9994

Custody struggle over 3-year-old daughter of 'U'

.

Last night, Daily Staff Reporter Michelle Lee Thompson interviewed
JenniferIreland a20-year-oldLSA sophomorefrom Mt. Clemens who has been
fighting with her ex-boyfriend for custody of their 3-year-old daughter
Maranda, at Ireland's Northwood Family Housing apartment. The case
attracted nationwide attention when a Macomb County Circuit Court judge
granted custody of the baby to her ex-boyfriend Steven Smith.

"
0.

What made you decide to
bring Maranda with you
here to the University?

AIwasn't sure what was
going to do at first. I tried
togetan apartment in fam-
ily housing, and as soon
as I found out that Icould bring her up
here with me, there wasn't a doubt in
my mind that I would. This is where I

wanted tocometoschool, this is where
I've wanted to come since, like birth.
I talked to the housing director, and I
told her that I was going to lose cus-
tody of my child if I couldn't bring
her, and then it was like, "Oh, OK." I
could have left her home, and it
wouldn't have been a problem, but I
wanted to bring her.
Q: How were things in your home,
with three generations living together:

I

your mother, your sister, yourself and
Maranda?
A: It was fine. The only time it
ever got tense, I mean it wasn't really
bad or anything - my mom told me
that they were just setting me up, but
I things were not going wrong and I
just thought, 'Oh, that family loves
me. They would never do anything to
hurt me.' I mean, Mrs. Smith had
already told me that she didn't want to
raise another child. I was totally blind
to what was going on and my mom
could see that they were totally con-
trolling me. But then when we stopped
seeing each other, Steve demanded
his visitation. I mean, he would just
show up at my house.
Q: Did Steve see Maranda regu-
larly?
A: Oh yeah, we were dating. She
saw him all the time. I mean, I saw him
all the time, and whenever I was with
him, she was with him. On average,
Steve saw her five times a week. I was
always over there.
Q: Did Steve ever tell you that he
was planning to file for custody?
A: Hethreatened itoncein Novem-
ber, and I just took it as a total joke. I
mean, we were still dating, and I just
thought it was ajoke. Then in January,
when I didn't know where I was going
to go to school in the fall - I mean, I
didn't get my acceptance letter until
February - he wanted to know what
was going on. He said, "I'll file for
custody. That way I'll know what's
going on." I mean, I didn't know in
January what I was going to do in
September, whereI was going to go to
school.
Q: What do you think about all the

attention the custody battle has re-
ceived and how did it happen?
A: Oh, I know. The story is like,
everywhere. I have family touring in
Europe, and they said they've seen it
in the papers in Italy, Syria ... my
attorney, Ron Dixon, and his partner,
just thought it was an outrage. I mean,
I know of at least eight attorneys who
thought that the evidencejust all pointed
in my favor. All except Steve's attor-
ney. So anyway, Ron and his partner
sentoutletters, with a little background
Steve got a major sum
of money from 'A
Current Affair,' but he
still doesn't want to
pay his $8 a week. I
won't take any money,
because I don't want it
to seem like I'm
selling her.
... to all the radio stations, and TV
stations, with the opinion. Channel 2
and 4 called, they were first, Channel
7 didn't call until the end of the week,
and next thing I know I'm on CNN. I
don't know how many people have
sent me letters. And like, Steve got a
major sum of money from "A Current
Affair," but he still doesn't want to pay
his $8 a week. Iwon't take any money,
because I don't want itto seem like I'm
selling her.
Q: Do you think this case is a
referendum on day care?
A: Yeah, cause if it wasn't, the

judge would have said that in his
opinion.I meanSteve's attorney said
that the judge made it seem like a day
care issue instead of saying I was an
unfit mother just to soften the blow,
but that's not his job. That's not what
they're paid to do. They're paid to
look at the law. They didn't prove me
to be an unfit mother. The judge, in
his own twisted way, felt that day care
is wrong, that being a single mother is
wrong. My aunt, who is a lawyer,
raised her children on her own while
she was in law school, and she had
five kids. And they have all turned out
just remarkable. Judge Cashen made
his decision like it was in the 1950s.
Q: How did you choose a day care
provider for Maranda in Ann Arbor?
A: Well, I went through the fam-
ily program here at the University,
and they gave me a list of providers. I
called all of them, and visited some. I
mean, we loved Annette - she is so
bubbly, and I could see right away
how good she was with the children.
I used to work at a day care center, and
they had all these stations for the kids
to go to, like educational stations to
play at, and even though Annette only
takes care of six kids, she has all those
stations. And Steve's attorney said
Maranda was with strangers - we
left here and came back six months
later to visit, and Maranda remem-
bered Annette. I'm hoping Winter
term to enroll her in preschool where
she belongs, and she'll go off to pre-
school with Annette's two kids, chil-
dren she already knows, and be able
to grow more.
Q: The Court of Appeals has left
you with custody of Maranda until the
time of your appeal. Do you think that
is a sign that they will reverse the
decision?
A: I don't know. I was told by my
attorney that usually, they grant stays,
and that the Court of Appeals a lot of
times doesn'treversethelower courts'
decision for custody. So I have to keep
that in mind, but because of the evi-
dence, and because of the opinion, I
don'tseeany way how they couldthink
the same thing Judge Cashen did. I
mean, Steve said thatIwas aneglectful
parent, but he didn't have an ounce of
proof, I can't vision them not overturn-
ing the decision. Once again, everyone
I've talked to has said, "There's no way
you guys won't win." No one has tes-
tified about anything I've done since
I graduated from high school. No one

knows who I am right now, or any-
thing that I've done in the past year
and a half.
Q: If the Court of Appeals court
declines to overturn Cashen's deci-
sion, will you continue to fight?
A: I've got the stay, and my goal
is to keep her the happy child that she
is now, and I will do whatever I have
to to make sure to keep it that way.
Q: So what will the central issues
of your appeal be?
A: I'm not sure of all of them. The
day care issue, the fact that I can be a
student and amother, thatIcan do both,
thatI have done both remarkably well.
They have to go a lot on what the
opinion said, the fact that they did not
find me to be an unfit mother. Consti-
tutionally, he has infringed on my civil
rights. The (American) Civil Liberties
Union has asked me to take out a law-
suit against Judge Cashen. I mean, I
won't, but he didn't prove me to be an
unfit mother and he took my child
away from me and that's violating my
civil rights. The grandmother issue-
studies show that children who go
through day care centers turn out just as
well or better than children raised by
blood relatives. The fact that Steve
can just move out and put her in day
He said, "I'll file for
custody. That way I'll
know what's going on."
I mean, I didn't know in
January what I was
going to do in
September.
care if he wants to. What if his mother
decides she doesn't want to watch
Maranda anymore, or, God forbid,
something were to happen to his par-
ents? Then he would resort to in day
care too and I could sue for custody.
That Steve has never been a full-time
parent, and he's relying on everyone
else. I mean, I went out of my way to
get out on my own, and he's just
relying on everyone else, and he's
getting custody. I mean, right there,
that's wrong. I mean, my mom of-
fered to sell her house and move up
here, butI'm 20 years old and I can do
this on my own. I know that there's a
lot more - seven different organiza-
tions filed when I filed, and they all
have their lists of issues.

I

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