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Aftermath of NFL tragedy now focuses on child custody, estate issues

A tragedy coming out of the professional sports world last month quickly grew into a national story for several reasons, including its strong focus on domestic violence and child custody, with implications that continue.

On a fateful day in early December, Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend at the couple's home and thereafter took his own life at the team's stadium. The couple left behind a three-month-old daughter.

Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, was staying with the couple at the time and, following their deaths, was awarded custody of the baby. She filed a petition in December seeking appointment as the girl's guardian and conservator of her estate.

Prior to a ruling, Shepherd let the infant's maternal grandparents take the girl to Texas for her mother's funeral. They have not returned her, but, rather, have filed a lawsuit seeking temporary custody, a ruling that the child's residence be in Texas, and an order that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent her best interests.

Shepherd has in turn filed a second petition on the guardian and estate issues, and a probate commissioner has scheduled a hearing for this Friday on her child custody petition.

Belcher's estate is potentially worth several million dollars. The National Football League collective bargaining agreement stipulates that his daughter's estate or guardian will receive at least $1 million. Additionally, a trust has been created by the Chiefs' owners, coaches and players to provide for the girl's care, and Belcher also had a life insurance policy worth more than $1 million.

Source: Newsday, "Jovan Belcher's orphaned child subject of custody fight," Jan. 6, 2013

  • Child custody and visitation can often be complex and difficult matter to resolve. We invite readers to visit our Miami-Dade County Child Custody page for information on our firm and insight into the experience we bring to bear on behalf of clients seeking assistance in these areas.

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