Oklahoma Dad Gets Custody of Two Children After 8 Years

March 18th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
After eight years of trying, Jerry Angelo has finally gotten custody of his children.  Read about it here (Tulsa World, 3/13/12).  Here’s my original post on the case.

It’s one of the strangest cases I’ve run across due mostly to Angelo’s son’s diagnosis of psychosocial dwarfism.  That’s a condition in which a child fails to grow, not for a physical reason, but due to lack of emotional care from his parents, in this case, his mother.

Jerry Angelo and Mekala Smith divorced in 2004 when their son was three and their daughter two.  As is usually the case, Smith got sole custody, but Angelo kept regular contact with his children, seeing them on weekends, holidays and during the summer. 

At one point, his daughter leveled a charge of abuse at her mother and Angelo sought a change of custody.  It was denied.  Later, the girl made another charge of abuse and two doctors, both pediatric endocrinologists, and a psychologist diagnosed his son with psychosocial dwarfism.  The boy wasn’t getting the emotional nurturing he needed in his mother’s home. 

So Angelo tried again to get custody, but strangely, every motion he made was simply ignored by the judge, Barry Denney.  Continuance after continuance was granted.  Angelo could make his motions to change custody, but he couldn’t make the judge hold a hearing.  Into the bargain, the children’s guardian ad litem, who is not a medical doctor and has no training in diagnosing the extremely rare condition of psychosocial dwarfism, simply substituted her own lay opinion for those of the experts.

Since Denney refused to rule on the motions, he never had to explain why leaving the children in their mother’s care was in some way in their best interests.

Finally, Denney recused himself for what should be obvious reasons.  The new judge wasted no time in discharging the guardian ad litem and finding another who presumably has more interest in the children’s welfare.  It seems the children’s guardian had conflicts of interest in the case that she’d never seen fit to disclose before.  Among them was the fact that she tried to get Smith a job with a governmental agency. 

Continuing to represent the children in that case looks like a clear example of legal malpractice.  I would suggest that the current guardian investigate filing a lawsuit against her.  After all, she kept children in a home about which there were two complaints of abuse and three doctors found the atmosphere so emotionally unsupportive that one child stopped growing.  She did so in the face of multiple requests by the father to get custody.

But the good news is that Jerry Angelo has finally gotten custody of his children.  The boy is now 11 but has the physical stature of a typical seven year old.

 A custody battle over two children, one of whom might be suffering from a rare medical condition, has been resolved by a judge who placed the children with their father.

Mekala Angelo Smith and Gerald “Jerry” Angelo Jr. have been battling over their children, L.J., 11, and Haley, 10, since 2005.

In a 10-page order and visitation schedule signed March 9, Ottawa County Special Judge Bill Culver ruled that the children would live with Angelo.

No word on whether Smith will have visitation with the children, whether she’ll pay child support and if so, how much.

It’s often astonishing the lengths to which courts and their various minions will go to keep children away from their fathers.  Judges natter nonstop about the best interests of children, but when it comes to cases like this one in which the father is the obvious choice to have custody, the concept often seems to fly out the window.

This case took eight years to be correctly resolved.  That’s almost all of the children’s lives during which untold damage to them has been done. 

I wish Jerry Angelo the best of luck in healing his children’s psychic wounds.  In my book he’s a hero for never giving up in the face of a judge and a guardian ad litem who seem to have been deadset against him from the start.


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