Florida Child Custody Disputes: Elian Gonzalez Turns 20

Florida residents likely remember the international child custody dispute over
Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was rescued after he and his mother’s boat sunk off the coast of Florida. His mother died in the accident, but Elian was found by rescuers, clinging to an inner tube. The child custody battle that ensued between Elian’s relatives in Florida and his biological father in his homeland was difficult and emotional.

Now, more than 13 years later, Elian just turned 20 years of age and has traveled outside his communist country for the first time since the ill-fated boat journey. As a military cadet, he will attend a weeklong youth conference abroad. Reportedly, Elian is happy with his life and has become a fervent nationalist who reveres Fidel Castro, referring to him as a mix between a dad and a God.

Indeed, during the custody dispute, Castro battled for the return of Elian to his father in Cuba and succeeded. Ultimately, United States agents used tear gas to extricate the boy from the home of his relatives in Miami. Pictures from the event are heart-wrenching as images of the boy can be seen being torn from his Miami relatives’ arms at gunpoint, after they were hiding in a closet.

Although it has now been over 13 years since this event, the child custody case still highlights the pain, difficulty and intense emotions that come into play during these delicate matters. Indeed, in this case, the custody of a 6-year-old boy strained relations between two nations. If such matters can affect entire countries to such a degree, think of how individual families are affected. There is never an easy way to assert one’s rights to child custody if the other parent is in disagreement; nevertheless, legal strategies can be employed in Florida to make the process go as smoothly and peacefully as possible as each side fights for what they believe is truly in the child’s best interests.