In a disturbing sequence of events reported in an article in The Press Democrat, a Lake County woman is accused of having sex with her teenage son. She is scheduled to be back in Napa County Superior Court on Thursday. According to Napa County court records, Mistie Atkinson faces four felony charges of incest, oral copulation with a minor, lewd contact with a minor and distributing lewd materials to a minor.
Each Lake County family law attorney has worked on many cases involving unique family situations, but these allegations are a reminder that no matter how long one has practiced law, bizarre circumstances continue to arise. Of course, this sort of conduct has criminal implications: a sexual relationship between a parent and his/her child is not only a violation of the California Family Code, but it is also a violation of the California Penal (Criminal) Code.
The California Penal Code makes clear that incest is illegal in California. The language of the Code pertaining to incest is as follows: “Persons being within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous are void, who intermarry with each other, or who being 14 years of age or older, commit fornication or adultery with each other, are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.” Therefore, in application of this provision, Atkinson remains in the Napa County jail, where she is being held on $200,000 bail.
The Napa County court records provide a little more context for the story. Apparently, Atkinson and her son were absent from each other’s lives until just recently when Atkinson located her 16-year-old son through the Internet last year. Prosecutors allege that the two developed a sexual relationship in the latter half of 2011. Disturbingly, the son knew that Atkinson was his biological mother. Although the son had knowledge and the sexual relationship was consensual, our Lake County family law attorney understands that neither the Penal Code nor the Family Code in California allows for such an incestuous relationship between mother and son to go unpunished.
Not only does Atkinson face criminal ramifications for her actions, but she also faces child custody issues with her son’s father. In response to the sordid turn of events, the father obtained a restraining order against Atkinson in December 2011. Reports have yet to disclose what, if any, further action the father has taken. It is logical to infer that the next step the father will take is to file for full custody of the son (if he doesn’t already have it), asserting that it is in the “best interest of the child” to be under the supervision of the father given the mother’s criminal behavior. Based on this argument, it is likely that the court will grant the father full custody.
In previous posts, we had discussed several factors that fathers in child custody battles should be mindful of in order to protect their custody rights. Those concerns notwithstanding, however, the father in this particular case is likely to find favor with the court under the circumstances.
Our Northern California family law attorneys appreciate that unexpected, unusual and complicated family issues can arise. When faced with uncertain situations, it is always important to seek the advice of a qualified legal professional in order to protect your rights.
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