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Family Tragedy Sparks Debate Surrounding Child Custody Process

Tragic stories of child custody battles resulting in death of one or more family members sometimes appear in the news. Recently, the story of the father who burned down his home with his children and himself inside during visitation has led to questions regarding the current system for determining family matters such as parental visitation rights.

Protecting children from harm and removing them from potential domestic violence is crucial in making child custody decisions. But courts tend to allow for visitation even when a parent loses child custody. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know how risky visitation can be when one parent is mentally unstable.

Family courts generally try to set boundaries and rules for divorcing parents to follow that allow them to continue in their role as parent. At the same time, the courts are also responsible for protecting child safety. Achieving that balance does not always work and kids and/or their parents end up paying the ultimate price.

A USA Today report suggests that perhaps it is time to review and refine child custody standards and obtain more accurate information about the parents and their mental or emotional state of mind. Visitation is highly important to children and their parents; there are thousands of cases where visitation is never a problem and where children and parents deal amicably with their divorces and child custody issues. It is the highly publicized few cases that draw attention and make everyone wonder if something better could have been done to prevent the violence.

A divorce attorney will work with the courts and parents to set up reasonable child custody arrangements and visitation parameters. When there is potential violence the courts must take extra caution with child custody rules. No one is a mind reader, but everyone wants to see violence avoided.

What do you think about this matter? Could the system do more to prevent acts of violence related to family issues?


USA Today: “Powell tragedy sparks questions about child custody,” Yamiche Alcindor, Feb. 8. 2012