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Tragedy leads to child custody battle

Ohio readers recognize that the custody of a child is an emotional issue in every divorce or separation in which children are involved. Parents want what is best for their children, though they often disagree as to who should have primary child custody. An unusual case currently being contested has pitted a biological mother against the stepmother of a 6-year-old boy.

The case arose following the tragic death of a father and three of his children in an October 2010 plane crash. The deceased man and his ex-wife had five children together. His ex-wife is also the mother of the 6-year-old, who is the result of another relationship. However, following the couple's divorce, an agreement was reached that allowed them to share custody of all of the children, including the 6-year-old child. The man's new wife became the stepparent to all the children and helped raise them until the terrible accident.

But following the fatal plane crash, a Minnesota court has placed the 6-year-old boy in the custody of the deceased man's widow, even though the ex-wife is the biological mother of the boy. The wife requested full custody after the biological mother moved the child out-of-state without notice. Reports suggest the boy's biological mother experienced mental health problems since the plane crash. The family court awarded the wife of the deceased man custody of the child at least temporarily, though the biological mother and her attorneys are continuing to fight for a return of full custody.

In Ohio, as well as all other states, there is a high legal threshold to overcome for the removal of a child from his or her biological parent. Removal from the natural parent is fairly rare, absent extreme circumstances. While it remains to be seen what the final outcome of this child custody litigation will be, it underscores the point that courts will act in what they perceive to be the best interests of the child after a review of all of the relevant facts and circumstances.

Source: Star Tribune, "Mpls. Custody fight pits women who grieved over Wyo. plane crash," Abby Simons, Feb. 6, 2012.

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