Murders by WA Father Raise Questions About Custody Decisions


USA Today says that the murders of two boys by their suicidal father in Washington raises questions about whether more should be done to protect children in tug-of-war custody disputes. The father, Josh Powell, apparently hit his sons Charles and Braden, ages 7 and 5, with a hatchet before a fire killed all three. Powell had been a suspect in the 2009 disappearance of his wife, Susan. He had lost legal custody of his sons, yet they were murdered while visiting his home this week.

Most states do not have specific laws regarding child custody, supervised visitation or how visits are conducted, several legal experts say. Instead, judges empowered with a high degree of discretion determine who gets custody, what losing custody means and where and when supervised visits occur. “The current standard — ‘in the best interest of the child’ — we believe is very vague and subjective,” said Sheila Peltzer, president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Kids Need 2 Parents advocacy group. “Judges have too much discretion.”

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