SAN DIEGO — The three children of missing mother Maya Millete will remain, for now, in the custody of their paternal grandparents in Chula Vista.
On Wednesday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Julia Kelety declined to rule on a guardianship petition filed by the children’s aunt, Maricris Drouaillet.
However, the judge did order weekly visitation between the children and Maya’s side of the family, including Drouaillet and the maternal grandparents.
The father, Larry Millete, remains in jail without bail, charged with murdering his wife. The body of Maya Millete has not been found.
No cameras were allowed in Wednesday's court hearing where Drouaillet was seeking an emergency, temporary guardianship order.
“It’s not at all surprising that the court's initial inclination, in an emergency setting, is to just maintain the status quo as it exists today,” said San Diego family law attorney Anton Georghiou, who is not involved in the case.
“It’s a conservative decision on the part of the court, but the court has to be conservative here. Maintaining stability for the children is what the court is initially after, as well as assuring their safety,” Georghiou said.
The court also appointed a guardian ad litem: La Mesa attorney Kelley James, who will represent the interests of the children for this case only.
The judge ordered that James be provided a copy of a "forensic interview" of the three children, which already has been conducted at Rady Children’s Hospital’s Chadwick Center in Kearny Mesa.
“Usually when there's the use of this word ‘forensic’ it does mean that it's an official investigation,” said Georghiou. “So, you would have a detective, you would have someone from [Child Welfare Services] questioning the child.”
The family law attorney believes the forensic interview of the children would have concentrated the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Maya Millete, as well as the relationship of various family members.
“I'm sure that the kids weren't just asked about what happened on a specific day, they were probably asked all kinds of questions about the family as a whole,” said Georghiou. “So, when the wife disappears, the investigation wouldn't have just focused on the husband, it would have looked at everyone in the family.”
The judge ordered the guardian ad litem also will be provided recordings of telephone calls Larry Millete made from jail to his three children, an alleged violation of a criminal protective order.
In court, attorney James said the Millete children are doing well in school and have exhibited no behavioral problems.
James told the court there is an active, ongoing Child Welfare Services investigation into the children’s safety. Additionally, she said the paternal grandparents, Benito and Judith Millete, have secured a caregivers authorization affidavit, as they plan on petitioning the court for formal guardianship before the next hearing.
Judge Kelety ordered that Larry Millete's parents facilitate visitation with the maternal side of the family and work to obtain mental health services for the children. The visitations come with an order from Kelety prohibiting relatives from discussing any details with the children regarding either the ongoing criminal or probate cases.
While the judge declined to make a decision Wednesday regarding guardianship, a hearing was set for Jan. 19 to revisit the issue.
However, Kelety did question whether it would be optimal to uproot the children from their home and school in Chula Vista, if Drouaillet was given guardianship. Drouaillet currently lives in Riverside County.
Drouaillet's attorney, Scott Finkbeiner, told the judge his client would be willing to relocate to San Diego County in order to give the children as much stability as possible.
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