Custody Issue Turns Violent

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Custody and Motion to Modify on Friday, April 11, 2014

NBC News reported on a recent incident in Boone County, Missouri, where a mother and her current boyfriend, in an attempt to retrieve the mother’s child, broke into the home of the father of the child, tasered him, and left the house with the child. A neighbor of the father happened to witness the incident and shot the tires out on the mother’s car, which allowed the police to retrieve the child unharmed. The police returned the child to the custody of the father.

It appears from court records that father had sole custody of the child and mother had no right to see the child, though she had filed to modify custody. As one might imagine, this incident will probably put an end to her modification.

It may seem obvious to state, but violence is never the answer in a custody dispute. Forcibly trying to take a child to whom you have no legal claim of custody will not help you regain custody, it will only land you in jail.

Why do people resort to such tactics? Custody disputes can leave people very unhappy, bitter and disgruntled, and the losing party may choose to take the law into his or her own hands. Police and the courts can only do so much – restraining orders, custody orders – but an aggrieved parent who simply loses it, or has a history of violence, sometimes cannot be stopped. Indeed, the flaw or irony in the issuance of restraining orders is that they tend not to stop the individuals most likely to engage in serious acts of violence.
How can we stop these situations and protect innocent parties?

One good idea would be for legislatures to require more mental health intervention in cases where a court suspects the temperament of one or more parties could be combustible. We do have in Missouri resources like Domestic Relations Services that offer counseling and intervention services, but they are not required in all needed cases and they lack the staffing to handle an increase in demand. We need to move to identify mentally unstable parents as quickly as possible; once identified, we need to disarm them as a requirement of custody; we need more supervised visitation and more custodial intervention.

We do not have ready answers for the frightening increase in incidents of violence related to custody disputes, but we do know steps we can take now that will at least reduce the probability that innocent children and parents get hurt.

If you have questions about domestic violence and custody, contact our St. Louis family law attorneys – we can help.