SEATTLE -- There was a stunning decision Wednesday in a King County courtroom involving a custody battle the KING 5 Investigators have been following for months.
A judge has ruled a little girl taken from her home and put in foster care may be headed back to her grandparents.
The KING 5 Investigators first started looking into the custody battle because we couldn't understand why seemingly loving, stable grandparents weren't given the chance to care for the granddaughter they'd help to raise. Instead, she was put into foster care.
Wednesday, a judge agreed the relatives should have been given more consideration.
It was a defining moment in court for Doug and AnneMarie Stuth, who have been fighting for nearly two years to get their granddaughter out of foster care and back into their home.
King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler ruled it may happen after all -- a move which shocked everyone in the court.
Doug Stuth was stunned, saying the ruling "couldn't have been better."
The baby was taken from her mom--the Stuths' teenage daughter, Lisa Lieberman-- as an infant. She'd let the baby get dangerously thin.
The Stuths stepped in to raise the little girl, but they fell out of favor with social workers and a different judge who ruled the Stuths were too controlling and selfish to do the job.
The child went into foster care.
At Wednesday's trial, the state was trying to terminate the teen mom's parental rights permanently. But, the judge ruled the Department of Social and Health Services and the earlier judge on the case hadn't properly followed state law.
"The department and the dependency court in attempt to get Ms. Lieberman on track to parent failed to adequately to consider the legal obligation to consider relative placement. I understand the reason for it but I think it was in error," said Kessler.
"I didn't think that this was going to happen, that's for sure," said Lieberman, in tears. "So happy that it did."
The judge said he was prepared to terminate the teenager's parental rights because the state proved their case. If he would have done that, it would have meant that neither she nor the grandparents would have ever seen the child again.
But because of this error--not adequately giving the grandparents a shot at keeping their grandchild--he's giving the Stuths one week to file papers requesting custody.
And there's another surprising twist. DSHS apparently moved the toddler out of her foster home Tuesday and placed her in an emergency foster home. No reason was given for the removal.