Tragedy Brings Up Questions About Child Custody Laws

This week, we learned of a tragic story out of Utah.  Josh Powell, the husband of a missing Utah woman, killed his two sons and himself in an intentional house fire. This horrific act brings up questions about what could have been done to protect these children and the countless others who are caught in a child custody battle.

Powell, who was a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, had lost custody of his sons, yet they were still at his home when he took their lives. Custody in Powell’s case was handled much like many cases – the goal was to remedy the situation that caused the loss of custody while maintaining the relationship of the father and sons. Powell lost custody after his father, Steven Powell, who they were living with, was arrested on child pornography charges in September, police said. Powell had been granted visits with his sons twice per week in his home.

Attorney, Lanae Harden, who chairs the Family Law Practice Group at HARDEN JACKSON, LLC, and has over 15 years experience with Child Custody cases commented that while this situation is very tragic, it is unlikely that a court could have ever predicted something like this. “Unless the child appears in immediate danger and/or the parent has a history of violence, it is very unlikely that a court would not allow the children to have visitation with the parent in their home.” Harden goes on to say “Child custody laws are designed for ‘the best interest of the child’, and typically this means that children should spend time with their parents.”

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