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Distance can be a factor in child custody determinations

There is no doubt that the incident involving the NFL player Jovan Belcher and his family was a terrible tragedy. If our readers are not familiar with this situation, the football player had shot his girlfriend during an argument and later killed himself. While we don't have the standing to talk about what they were thinking, the issues that remain in the case are pertinent to our Illinois Family Law Blog.

When the tragic incident occurred, the couple left behind a baby girl. Without estate planning documents directing guardianship choices, the court was left to make a child custody determination for those seeking a role in the daughter's life. Belcher's mother and his girlfriend's cousin are both seeking custody of the child.

Both the mother and the cousin have asked for sole custody. The mother said that the child would be best off in her home with a large network of family surrounding her. Although she has requested sole custody, she said that she would be more than happy if the end result was a shared custody plan.

The cousin, on the other hand, brought an expert to the stand who said that a shared custody plan is not a good option in this case. Why? The two parties live several states away -- something the expert said would place too much stress on a young child.

We can't guess as to what the outcome will be in this case. For one thing, it is being decided in a jurisdiction other than Illinois. However, distance is one of the factors in child custody cases in our jurisdiction. Whether it is determining custody or seeking to relocate, distance may be considered.

Source: ESPN, "Belcher's relatives seek child custody," June 11, 2013

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