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Families battle over custody of Jovan Belcher's daughter

Divorcing parents have the unenviable task of deciding how to split the time they spend with their children. This can be heartbreaking no matter who ends up with primary child custody because it still means both parents will have less time to spend with their children. But there are other circumstances that result in tough battles over custody.

The case of Jovan Belcher, the NFL player who shot and killed his girlfriend before taking his own life, is a tragic example. The families of both parents are currently fighting in court for custody of the couple's infant daughter, Zoey. She's currently living with her mother's relatives in Texas, but until the lawsuits filed by both families are settled, there's no telling who will end up with custody of the 4-month-old girl.

Just after the shootings, Belcher's mother received custody and petitioned a court to be named her granddaughter's legal guardian and conservator of her estate. She agreed to allow the girl's maternal relatives to take her to Texas, where her mother's funeral was held. But in addition to filing a lawsuit for temporary custody and a guardian ad litem, they've cut off all contact with Belcher's family. A hearing on their lawsuit is scheduled for next week.

As is the case with so many legal battles, money is a major issue in this custody fight. Whoever becomes Zoey's legal guardian will receive more than $1 million, to be distributed in annual increments until she reaches the age of 18. If she attends college, she'll receive $52,000 every year until she turns 23. This doesn't include additional funds from a trust set up by Belcher's team, the Kansas City Chiefs, or from public donations.

Although most will not involve such large sums of money, custody battles like these often happen when one or both parents of a child die. It's important for families seeking custody of a departed parent's child to find a strong legal advocate to help them navigate the situation and ensure that the best interests of the child remain the No. 1 priority.

Source: News One, "Families Of Jovan Belcher, Kassandra Perkins Battle For Custody Of Baby Zoey," Hannington Dia, Jan. 7, 2013

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