Missouri judge decides Jovan Belcher child custody dispute

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The custody and guardianship dispute between the relatives of Jovan Belcher’s daughter was not the usual Missouri child custody dispute. Many Columbia, Missouri residents heard the news of the case after police reported in December that Belcher had murdered the child’s other before committing suicide in the parking lot outside the Kansas City Chiefs’ training facility.

A first cousin of the child’s mother and Belcher’s mother each sought child custody. The case eventually went to trial in probate court in Missouri—the case involved guardianship of the child who had lost both parents. But, the case essentially involved important aspects of Missouri family law. Child custody and visitation issues were on the table—issues to be resolved in the best interests of the child.

Authorities had originally allowed the child’s maternal grandmother to care for the child in New York after the tragic events at the home and Arrowhead stadium, as we previously discussed on this blog. But the child went to Texas to attend her mother’s funeral. The child reportedly has remained with the maternal relatives ever since.

The two families brought the child custody, visitation and guardianship issue to court in Missouri, where a three-day trial was held in June. The judge reportedly found that each of the parties is a suitable guardian for the child. However, in considering the arguments, proposed custody and visitation schedules and the evidence presented, the court gave sole custody to the maternal first cousin, while allowing ample visitation with the paternal relatives.

The grandmother had proposed joint custody, with the families sharing custody on a 50-50 split basis. The cousin reportedly sought sole custody with the paternal family having visitation rights that will increase as the child ages.

The court found the cousin’s arrangement better aligned with a social worker from Texas who reportedly testified at trial. The court reportedly also found that the child had been with the maternal relatives for many months, and awarding the guardianship to the maternal relative would be less disruptive for the child.

Source: Kansas City Star, “Cousin of Zoey Belcher’s mother is awarded guardianship of 9-month-old,” Brian Burnes, June 20, 2013

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