There is a good reason that it is difficult to modify child custody orders: The court issues them for the benefit and protection of the children. One couple appears to have violated such a court order by bringing two children from Florida to Indiana without the knowledge of their noncustodial parent. Authorities have now charged them criminally for the death of one of those two children, a 12-year-old boy.
The boy's parents divorced in 2016. His mother reports that the court awarded full custody of the boy and his nine-year-old sister to her ex-husband after she failed to show up to a custody hearing. She claims that it was a shock to learn from police that her son had been living in Indiana, where he died. Allegedly, she had been sending child support payments to a Florida address and had twice seen her ex-husband in Florida court. It is not known what, if any, visitation rights she had.
The boy's stepmother claims in an affidavit that "repeated involvements" with the Florida Department of Child Services prompted the couple's decision to move the children to Indiana. There is no information as to what these "involvements" entailed or whether the department attempted any follow-up after the family's departure. Upon arriving in Indiana, both the father and the stepmother reportedly found employment handing out flyers for a traveling circus.
Legal documents allege that the boy endured unspeakable abuse at the hands of his father and stepmother, which reportedly included beatings and food deprivation, prior to his death. The stepmother claims that his father took him to the hospital upon finding him cold and unresponsive. According to the stepmother's account, the day before he went to the hospital, the boy was too weak to feed himself due to illness. Doctors pronounced him dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital while unconscious.
The boy's father and stepmother now face charges of criminal confinement and battery to a minor, negligence and murder. Child Protective Services have assumed care of the nine-year-old girl and two other children.
This case indicates the importance of adherence to child custody orders and going through the proper channels to change them. Parents with concerns in this regard may wish to enlist the services of an attorney.