It is important that the law protects the best interests of children, since they are among the most vulnerable individuals within our society. This is especially critical during a child custody dispute in which non-biological parents are at odds over who should raise a child in the aftermath of tragedy, whether in Florida or elsewhere. This is the circumstance in one recent case involving two children who have been left without either parent while their father is facing trial for fatally shooting their mother.
Shortly after the tragedy, the couple's 7-year-old son was apparently moved to out west. The mother of the slain woman claims to have seen the 18-month-child on only one occasion since the death of her daughter, and there were no reports of her seeing the older child at all. The sister and brother-in-law of the accused shooter have filed for custody of the two children in the state where they live. The deceased woman's parents are also vying for custody rights in court.
This case represents what might be the most wrenching type of child custody proceeding possible. While the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that left these children without the presence of either parent are certainly sensational, the focus must now be on the best interests of the children. One child custody proceeding is pending in California, where the sister and brother-in-law of the father live. Another child custody claim has been filed by the boys' maternal grandparents in Illinois, where the children had lived with their parents.
Child custody cases such as this present a great challenge to family court judges. Unfortunately, it is ultimately the children who stand to suffer the most when they are caught in the middle of a contentious court battle. In this case, it is the court's duty to listen to arguments from all parties seeking custody before making a custody determination that suits the best interests of the children.