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Mother's homicide makes family law custody decision difficult

Can a man who is suspected but not charged with killing his wife retain custody of the minor children? That question is being confronted in a Lee County court in Florida in a case where the Department of Children and Families is trying to remove two minor children from the father's custody. Child custody disputes produce some of the most rancorous battles in family law courts, but the intensity is ratcheted up even higher when one of the parents is accused of murdering the other parent.

The family law judge stated this week that she needs more time to make a decision regarding the whether the children are in any danger. Clearly, she has not yet determined that they are in any danger, and has actually ruled that there is no probable cause to remove the children from the father at this time. A hearing was also continued to give the DCF additional time also to improve on their offer of evidence, if possible.

At this time, a childhood friend of the father is under arrest for second-degree murder. He is accused of recruiting another man to assist in the alleged plot. The authorities are trying to link the father into the conspiracy with the men but apparently that is not an easy proposition. They have not found any abuse or neglect. Although court papers were released recently regarding motives for the crime, those details were not revealed in press reports.

Detectives appear to be going on the theory that it was all about money and that the two men were being paid by the man to kill his wife. It appears that the men charged with the killing are not talking, which is a possible reason why there are no charges against the father to date. As long as that remains the status of the matter, the family law court will likely not disturb the current custody relationship. It would be an arguable deprivation of due process under Florida and federal law to take the children away from the father without any wrongdoing being attributed to him.

Source: winknews.com, "Case regarding custody of Sievers' children continued to Monday", Stanley B. Chambers Jr., Dec. 4, 2015

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