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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Boys will continue living with woman who killed her children

When a Georgia family court judge makes a custody ruling, they rely on a flexible standard known as the “best interests of the child.” This standard lists about a dozen different criteria for a judge to use in determining the best child custody arrangement for the child and the circumstances. As such, custody rulings often vary significantly from judge to judge and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Even with this variance, it seems incomprehensible that any family court judge would place a child in a home with a parent who had previously killed her own children. Yet a family court judge has twice denied the request of a mother to remove her sons from the custody of their father and his wife, who spent several years in custody for killing her 4- and 8-year old daughters as they slept.

According to court records, the woman was found not guilty by reason of insanity after allegedly shooting her daughters in 1991. She served four years in a mental institution and 10 years of psychiatric monitoring before the state determined that she did not pose a risk to the public. Following her release in 2005, she began living with her ex-husband, who is the father of the two deceased girls.

During the woman’s psychiatric incarceration, her ex-husband had two children with another woman, both of whom lived with him when the first woman was released from state custody. The father did not inform the mother of his two living children of this development, and when she found out, she filed for temporary full custody of her sons.

But since the woman had been living with the boys for several years before their mother became aware of the situation, a court commissioner found that there was no significant change in circumstances that would justify a change in the parenting plan and denied the mother’s request. On appeal, a judge again refused to grant the custody request, but overturned the earlier ruling. This will allow the court to investigate the living situation to determine whether the boys are in danger.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Judge says boy can live with child-killer for now,” Gene Johnson, Aug. 29, 2011