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A Father's Promise Propels Changes to Old Law

Hartland resident Daniel Quinn continues his three-year fight to gain custody of his daughter.

Sitting in her cluttered, yet neat kitchen at her home in Hartland, coffee cup in hand, Sharon Quinn’s voice thickens with emotion as she shares a story about herself and her granddaughter, Maeleigh, who would sit on her lap, playing with the crucifix that hangs around Quinn’s neck.

“I would say, who is that, Maeleigh?” Quinn said, clutching the cross in her hand. “And she would say, ‘Jesus.’ ”

“I tell Danny all the time, this necklace is for Maeleigh,” she said.

Danny is Quinn’s 35-year-old son, and Maeleigh is his 5-year-old daughter. It has been three years since Sharon or Daniel Quinn have seen his little girl, and Sharon Quinn hasn’t taken her necklace off since.

The Beginning

In 2005, while working as a manager at in Fenton, Daniel Quinn met Candance Beckwith when she left her email address on a napkin along with her tip, encouraging him to contact her. Beckwith, who was separated but not divorced from her husband, Adam, then began a long-term relationship with Quinn that resulted in Maeleigh.

The couple moved in together and raised Maeleigh, along with Beckwith’s two children from her marriage, as a family until the spring of 2008. In May of that year, Beckwith reconciled with her husband and left Michigan, taking then-2½-year-old Maeleigh with her. Quinn, the only father Maeleigh had known up to that point, never even had a chance to say goodbye to his daughter.

The legal fight for the return of Maeleigh began, but when Beckwith’s husband claimed responsibility of Maeleigh in a Michigan court two years ago, under the Michigan Paternity Law of 1956, Quinn was legally denied any rights to his biological child.

Years of Legal Battles

“I have cried more tears over that child than I have over anybody else,” Sharon Quinn said. “I wake up thinking about her, I go to bed thinking about her. You would think it would get better — it doesn’t, ’cause there’s no closure.”

Now, after several years of legal battles, the possibility of being reunited with the sweet and well-mannered little girl they remember gets closer by the day.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Steven Bieda (D-Warren), now making its way to the Michigan House speaker, Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia), would redefine the paternity laws in Michigan and give standing in the courts to biological fathers, regardless of who the mother was married to at the time of birth.

Waiting for Senate Bills 557 through 560 — the Revocation of Paternity — to be signed can’t come soon enough for the Quinn family.

Concern for Maeleigh’s safety consumes the family, who has learned that Beckwith has pleaded guilty in Kentucky to drug possession charges and child neglect. Her husband is serving a three-year sentence in the state of Ohio for drug trafficking. What is even more frustrating for the Quinns is that Maeleigh, along with her half-siblings, are considered wards of the state of Kentucky, according to the little information the Quinns have received.

“A law that was supposed to help children be raised by a two-parent household has literally thrown my daughter into a ring of crime,” Daniel Quinn said. “It’s (the law) outdated. ... In 1956, there was no DNA testing, there was no way to actually prove it. Now we have an opportunity to make sure that these children are actually being raised by their blood.”

'Faith has kept me going'

When Quinn first realized the Michigan courts were going to allow his daughter to be taken away from him, he was shocked and angered. Learning more about his rights — or lack of them — as a father spurred him on his quest to change the laws and get his daughter back. The journey has been long and at times heartbreaking, he said, but he and his family push on.

“My family’s not been the same since my daughter left,” Quinn said. “This isn’t any different than the mothers and fathers that are on television pleading for somebody to return their child who is kidnapped or who is missing.”

For a while, Quinn kept Maeleigh’s room ready for her return. A lovingly decorated bedroom filled with unicorns and pink flowers stayed untouched, with the door shut. One year ago, however, Quinn decided to leave Fenton and return to Hartland and the home where his mother and father have lived since 1989.

“I just wanted to be closer to my family,” Quinn said. “Because every one of us are hurting over it, and it’s just easier to be around someone rather than be by myself and constantly thinking about it.”

Maeleigh’s furniture was eventually broken down and placed into storage. Her clothes, which she would have outgrown, have been given to her younger cousins, but they are always replaced by a brand-new wardrobe since, according to Quinn, he is always ready for his daughter to come home.

“All along, I thought I was getting her back,” Quinn said. “All along, that’s what we’ve been doing, is just always being ready for her to come home.”

He credits his persistence and unwavering belief that he will eventually win the battle for his daughter to faith.

"I believe this can happen, I believe it will happen," Quinn said. "I put this all in God's hands. He has done some amazing things already. ... We got Lansing involved, they are listening."

Despite the two-and-a-half years that have passed, Sharon Quinn’s house continues to feel the presence of Maeleigh, from a perfectly decorated dollhouse in the living room to an antique vanity tucked in the corner of the dining room, upon which a small pink box sits.

“All the girls (granddaughters) know that that one is Maeleigh’s,” Sharon Quinn said, pointing to the jewelry box filled to the top with bright, sparkly jewelry. 

Memories are what comfort the family now, and the days for the Quinn family are spent waiting. Daniel Quinn follows the Senate bill that is slowly making its way through the state's legislative system. He takes phone calls and answers emails, giving hope to other families facing similar situations, and is always trying to make his case and his voice heard. But most of all, he waits.

And he remembers the little girl and the gentle way she played. How she loved to dress up, snuggle with her daddy and sneak candy from her doting grandfather every chance she got. He also remembers the promise he made to his infant daughter almost six years ago.

“The very first words out of my mouth to my daughter in the nursery was that Daddy will always protect you,” Quinn said. “And I’m not gonna stop until that promise is fulfilled.”

Dusty Craine January 19, 2012 at 05:00 PM
As a man who loves his children with every ounce of his being, I commend Daniel Quinn. I can't imagine being forcefully separated from my kids for even a week let alone three-years. And then to learn that his daughter is a ward of the state and still unable to come home? It's tragic and it's infuriating. I pray that the wheels now in motion turn quickly and bring Maeleigh home so Daddy can make good on his promise. A promise every child deserves to see fulfilled.
Ellet Wilson January 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Is common sense a thing of the past or were we just under the illusion that it existed in the first place?
stephanie pytlowanyj January 20, 2012 at 01:14 PM
What a shame! Something is terrible wrong with our legal system to allow a child to be in this predicament. A child needs to always go with the better suited parent. My prayers and hopes are that this child comes back to her home in Michigan ASAP.
Lorik January 20, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Best wishes to you Daniel in getting your baby back home where she belongs. it is amazing to me that our legal system is still so out dated and would allow for your daughter to be moving through a system that she never needed to have been. I hope for her a speedy return to your loving stable home, It is what all children deserve.
JimMarcia Dykema January 20, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Sharon and Daniel, I feel your pain, our only granddaughter is being held hostage in our town by her mother and other grandmother, they will not allow any visitation ,they know Matt is Madilynn's father yet when he text her asking to see her she got a ppo for bothering her. I wake up in the night thinking about Madilynn and all the things she is doing and not being able to participate in. She is 6 months old and by time we get to see her she will probably be walking. I packed up all her things but havn't given away the clothes yet, havn't been able to open all the boxes yet. We miss her so much and pray for her every day. Thanks Daniel for all your help . Jim , Marcia and Matt Dykema
Deanna January 20, 2012 at 08:42 PM
As a mother who has not seen or spoken to her children in there years, I know how you feel. Can't wait to meet you at the summit. I will be speaking. My children were concealed from me when I exposed the family court corruption at www.abusedswan.com. I have 47 non custodial mothers who had Judge Patricia Gardner give abusive fathers custody or illegally place children into foster care.
Donna Campbell January 21, 2012 at 12:44 AM
We have become & more a nation of goverment raising our children. Thank God that My children are raised. An account of the # of children in the U.S. being held as custody of the state adds Money to that stat in th amount of " $4000.00 per child" per month, remember for as long as that child is a ward of the state. So here is the reason for keeping children in cps. Money spent for , cout action, including pro advicates " att" for the children, foster parents who receive at @ $400 a month per child. the social worker, there supers. & state supers. So children are kept long enough to recoop out of pocket money's & then some for what ever they want to use it for. Each county also receives at @ $ 82,000.00 for every child that is put up for adaption. Hows that one for you. Children are suppose to be placed with the nearist relative, that never happens. I know, been there. I wanted our Nephews 5 until this was settled, He was never charged with any offences against his children. but instead they were given to the Mothers of the children, 1) was recentaly released from a 5 yr. prison term for drug possesion, robbery, armed robbery, among other charges. Mother 2) had 4 of her other children removed because she was not stable or capable of emoinally dealing with new borns. His baby was only 6 month old.At the time of his conception the couts were informed that she was married at the time of his conception, so the judge ordered no rites to his baby.
Donna Campbell January 21, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Yes it is wrong , it is called Capital Greed, Not by the Federal Gov, but by the states that permitt the counties to practice this. What a horrrable fate for our children, our future, this is not suppose to be the norm.
Donna Campbell January 21, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Yes common sense is no longer a part of the U. S. vocabulary. Would this practice be permitted if it wasnt for the Federal Money that each county in the US receives. No i dont think so. So guess where billian of our Tax money goes to.
Donna Campbell January 21, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Tell Him to patition the courts for custody, He can do this without an attorney, Make sure it tis threw a divorce Judg & not a friend of the court judge, (cps), and see what happens.
stephanie pytlowanyj January 22, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I went through the divorce from hell. My ex-husband promised me that if I ever tried to leave him, he wouldn't make it easy for me, and I wouldn't get the children. Well, I did leave him and retained custody of both children. My ex didn't stop though, keeping his promise to not make things easy. About $25,000.00 later and numerous, numerous court dates I was finally free. My ex, however, kept up with his antics, putting a huge guilt trip on our young son telling him that he, the ex, had "no one". My adult son still has issues due to his "father". The only saving grace in the mess was Judge Farrah; he was very wise and compassionate. What I have observed in the legal system is the attorneys making deals between themselves, without the knowledge of the client. Also, unspoken favors such as helping a Judge to win an election may mean the Judge will do the attorney a favor down the line. Disgusting but true.
Kendra trainer December 07, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I think it is so ridiculous that a woman is married but seperated concieves another mans child, and then some weird law allows the said husband to legally take another mans child:( that is seriously wrong. I hope you get your child from these people who obviously only care about themselves and not any of the children involved given that they both put drugs before the welfare of the children. Best wishes to you and your family:)

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