Legal Expert Weighs In on Current State of Charlie Sheen"s Custody Battle
EXCLUSIVE: So much is going on with Charlie Sheen these days that it”s hard to keep track. Following his official firing by CBS, the actor”s team has threatened legal action; meanwhile, he is also heading into what could be a nasty custody battle with his estranged wife, Brooke Mueller.
There had been talk of a hearing happening today in Los Angeles, but TMZ is now reporting that lawyers for both parties are looking to reach a settlement out of court. According to reports, Sheen and Mueller”s lawyers had been negotiating an agreement over the weekend, but talks stalled over Mueller”s insistence that a monitor be present while Sheen has their 23-month-old twins, Bob and Max.
There are actually two components to the hearing and/or settlement. Mueller is seeking to make her current temporary restraining order final in family court. Sheen is accused of allegedly threatening her life, and if granted, the order would prevent Sheen from coming within 100 yards of her in addition to other stipulations such as contact only by e-mail or text message and in emergencies regarding the children. In California, it could last for several years. The other is a modification of the prior terms of their custody agreement. Mueller is reportedly asking for a neutral caretaker to supervise visits between the twins and Sheen to ensure they are safe and being taken care of properly. She is likely asking for this to remain in place until psychological and drug testing on the former “Two and a Half Men” actor can be completed.
Any judge in their right mind would require psychological testing, monitored visits, drug testing and a parent coordinator — typically a clinically trained psychologist — to help with child issues. But it goes both ways; Mueller has admitted to being in out-patient rehab, so she should also be drug and alcohol tested to ensure she is capable of caring for the twins.
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Mueller has also reportedly voiced her concern over Bob and Max”s contact with Sheen”s “goddesses.” In this regard, she can argue to the judge that they are a hazard and a danger to the kids, but it is unlikely the court will have them removed. Usually, the court will conduct psychological interviews on any and all people residing in a household where the children stay, and if they are not convicted felons and do not do drugs or abuse the children, the likelihood is the court will do nothing regarding the living arrangements with respect to the goddesses. The goddesses are not parties to the litigation, so the court doesn”t really have cause to ask them to leave Sheen”s home.
If family services gets involved, however, they can request the judge to cease all visits with Sheen or appoint a supervisor until or unless the goddesses move out, but only if they are found to be a hazard to the kids. An in-depth investigation would be opened with interviews by a variety of experts, family members and doctors, which could take months to gather and present to a judge.
If both Sheen and Mueller are found by the court to be currently unfit to parent, the kids will be moved to a family member who is fit and local — either a sibling or grandparents — on a temporary basis with both Mueller and Sheen enjoying parental visitation until the court can better determine both parties” fitness after all of the experts do their work. The court must focus on the best interest of the children, and when there is a question about both parents” fitness, a judge can order that the children remain with a family member until the court makes an informed decision with experts, testimony and credible evidence.
With regard to the alleged threats Sheen made against Mueller, at this time and in their current legal situation, it is considered a family domestic violence claim, so there would be no jail time if he is convicted of harassment or threats. She would, however, be granted a protective order that is final for a period of time. She would be protected from Sheen harassing her or making any threats to her. If the final restraining order was granted and Sheen violated it in any fashion, he would be arrested immediately.
But if the prosecutors deem the threat significant enough, they could file criminal charges against Sheen, who, if convicted, could get jail time — six months to four years, generally. If it goes to court, Mueller will present an ugly picture of Sheen — i.e. as a danger to her, the children and those around him — and the judge could modify the prior custody arrangement by further limiting visitation, ordering more child support if Sheen is spending less time with the kids, requiring supervised visits or perhaps forbidding overnight stays until the children are interviewed by a psychiatrist and a doctor.
In relation to his threats against Mueller, there seems no possibility for a psychiatric lockup for his mental behavior — he is 46 years old and it is thus very hard to get him committed. The better chance for this to occur is if there is a legitimate concern that his mental state will lead to him dwindling his significant estate. Sheen”s parents — much like Britney Spears” — could then try to gain a conservatorship over his money to preserve it.
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Vikki Ziegler, named one of the Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 by the New Jersey Law Journal, is a frequent contributor to Fox News Channel, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business Network, CBS and more. She has launched DivorceDating.com, which is a resource for bringing singles together by helping them get through difficult times and grow from their experiences. Her book, “The Premarital Survival Guide,” is in bookstores now.
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