Posted on behalf of Jeffrey N. Greenblatt of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA
People in Maryland may remember the disturbing story of NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher, who murdered the mother of his infant child before taking his own life in a dramatic scene in front of coaches and team personnel last November. His orphaned daughter, who is now nine months old, was recently the subject of a contentious child custody dispute as members of Belcher’s family battled with members of the girl’s mother’s family for primary custody.
After hearing testimony from each party as well as child custody experts last week, the court concluded that the girl’s mother’s cousin in Texas should be granted primary child custody. The young girl has been living with the cousin most of the time since her parents were killed, while Belcher’s mother had visited the girl frequently, making trips from her home in New York.
On one side of the custody dispute, the girl’s grandmother argued that the cousin worked too much, forcing the girl to spend 45 hours per week in day care. On the other hand, the cousin argued that the grandmother was a smoker, and pointed to a number of police reports arising from her residence over the past 20 years. These barbs were intended to cast doubt on the fitness of the other party to raise the young girl, as often happens in heated family law debates.
Ultimately the court found that the girl had a strong bond with the relative in Texas and that a relocation to New York, where Belcher’s mother and extended family live, would not be in the best interests of the child. The court awarded primary guardianship to the cousin, who will have the responsibility of raising the young girl and overseeing the over $1 million in financial support that the girl will receive from her father’s estate and the coaches and players of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Source: USA Today, “Judge awards custody of Jovan Belcher’s daughter,” Bill Draper, June 20, 2013