Judge orders Lonna and Chris Barton screened for alcohol, drugs, mental health
Grandmother has custody of Lonzie's older sister during custody dispute
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A family court judge who will determine custody of Lonzie Barton's 5-year-old sister ordered Wednesday that both parents be screened for drugs and alcohol and undergo mental health evaluations.
The girl's mother, Lonna Barton, is free on bond on charges of child neglect and giving false information to police in connection with Lonzie's July 24 disappearance. He has not been found.
Lonna Barton and Chris Barton, who lives in Baker County, were both at Wednesday's custody hearing. The couple, who have two children together, are separated but still legally married.
The Bartons' 5-year-old daughter is undergoing therapy and remains in the custody of her grandmother while the judge determines where she will live permanently.
News4Jax is not naming the daughter.
Lonna Barton told the judge she wants sole custody of her daughter. Currently she visits the child three times a week for at least 1.5 hours.
"Mrs. Barton loves her daughter and she wants to do everything in her ability to get her back in her home," Lonna Barton's attorney Joshua Goldborough said. "The judge asked how Mrs. Barton's daughter is doing, and the guardian ad litem stated she's doing fine. She's in a safe environment, and the visitations are going fine, so it's a safe environment."
Chris Barton said through his attorney that he "just wants them to be a family again."
Parents are given 12 months to demonstrate they're able to care for their child. If neither parent makes adequate progress on the case plan in a 12-month period, then the next step favored y the Legislature is to put the child up for adoption and terminate their parental rights.
During Wednesday's hearing, Judge David Gooding was told that the girl has been seeing a therapist to help with the trauma she has endured.
The girl began kindergarten last month in Baker County. Gooding was told Wednesday that she is excited about school and is looking forward to picking out a Halloween outfit.
The girl's grandmother, Debra Lauramore, told the judge last month that she worked in the Baker County school system for over 20 years and is prepared to help the child adjust to school.
Gooding set another hearing for Oct. 28.
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