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Phoenix AZ Family Law Blog

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Custody Dispute Leads to Deadly Shoot-Out

This summer we got a brutal reminder of just how contentious custody disputes can become.  A man in Navajo County recently shot and killed the mother of his grandchildren and her mother on the courthouse steps after a custody hearing.

According to a report in The Republic, the children at the heart of this dispute had been cared for by their paternal grandfather, the shooter, for some time. In May, the children visited their mother’s home, and shortly after that, the grandparents filed for a protective order, claiming that she had hit the children and verbally abused them.

The mother, in turn, alleged that the children’s father’s family had taken the children away from her, and she was seeking custody and the right to visit the children while the custody dispute was resolved.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety had determined that the grandparents’ claims were “unsubstantiated,” and at the court hearing before the shooting, the judge ruled that the mother should have the right to visit her children while the larger custody dispute was resolved.

The grandfather was apparently upset by this ruling so he went out to his car, grabbed a gun, and opened fired on the children’s maternal family members as they came out of the court house. The children’s mother and maternal grandmother were killed, and their aunt suffered a non-fatal leg wound.

There was obviously a lot of animosity between the parties in this case, and there were allegations of violence, but a court house shooting was completely unexpected. It is a harsh reminder that custody disputes often bring out the worst in everyone involved, even though everyone is supposedly thinking about what is best for the child.  

Don’t Risk Letting Your Custody Dispute Become Violent

If you are involved with a custody dispute, and you are afraid that the party you are fighting with may turn to violence, the time to speak up is now. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are simply afraid that something might happen, talk to an attorney who has experience dealing with both custody disputes and domestic violence.

An attorney can help you do two things. First and foremost, they can help you get a restraining order so you can keep the person that is threatening you away from you and your children.

Second, an attorney is going to be able to help you gather the evidence needed to show the court the party you are fighting with is not a suitable guardian for children, which can help you win your custody dispute. The safety of you and your child is one of the main factors judges use when they make custody decisions, so they are going to want to know if you or your child have been threatened with violence.

The courts take domestic violence very seriously precisely because incidents like the one in Holbrook occur all too frequently.


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