(WXYZ) - Lots of viewers responded to the heart-wrenching investigation we brought you about a little girl who a judge removed from her grandparents without warning. One of the people we heard from is the lawyer for the little girls mom. We'd asked the attorney for insight while the investigation was underway, but he wasn't available, until now.
Attorney Mark Cobb says there is a lot of heartbreak on both sides of this story, because it was the grandparents who took Lia from the mom a few months after the child was born…and that the mother fought to get her daughter back. Just three months ago, she won a controversial battle for custody.
Our first story began with the crying and tears shed by Lia in the courthouse hallway after she was told by her grandmother last November ….that a judge had given her back to her biological mother, their son's ex-wife. The mother, Amber Haning, lives in Salt Lake City. Lia didn't know her well at all, in fact, she'd referred to Amber as "that lady" when interviewed by a counselor. Attorney Cobbs talks about his clients suffering this way: "Can you imagine the frustration and anger you would feel if someone took your child, and for four years you said please give her back, and they said no, no, no."
It was Third Circuit Court Judge Susan Hubbard who decided to return Lia, now five, to her mother Amber Haning. Amber is remarried with a 3 year old daughter and living in Utah. But Amber says when she was separated from Lia's dad, Kenneth Huffaker, Ken and his father Troy Huffaker traveled to Utah…and while Amber was at the movies, Ken and Troy took her daughter from the baby sitter. Troy and his wife Diane, Lia's Grandparents, came back to Michigan, were granted guardianship of the child, and raised her for four years. But, says attorney Cobb, "the notion that these grandparents had been given a child and they saved the day to raise this innocent child is simply not true. These grand parents took the child."
What shocked observers was the decision of Third Circuit Court Judge Susan Hubbard to hand over Lia to her mother without giving Lia any time to get used to the transition of living far away from where she grew up with her grandparents in Gibraltar. The shock to a lot of people just observing this was the way the judge decided to move Lia from one family to another , and how quickly it was done, without warning. Was that the right way to do it? "I'm only guessing here," says attorney Cobb. "She may have been afraid that the grandparents would not have brought the child in…. that they would have run? I don't know what she was thinking, but she may have been afraid that they couldn't accept that."
Lia has lived out west with her biological mom and her familyfor 3 months now. Question is, will Amber allow the grandparents from Michigan to visit with Lia in the future? "She did want them to still have a relationship," says Cobb. "She understands that Lia has an attachment to them because she was with them for four years. She wants what's best for Lia , so she doesn't want to just cut off that relationship."
The grandparents are appealing Judge Hubbard's decision. And they tell us that they get to visit Lia occasionally by phone.