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Contentious Custody Battle Turns Deadly

Watching the news is often depressing, with the headlines too frequently involving senseless killings of families and children. Recently, a Pennsylvania father killed his ex-wife as well as her mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Suspect in family massacre found dead, by Ashley Fantz, CNN, December 16, 2014. The victims were killed at three different locations, suggesting that he sought them out specifically. In addition, a neighbor of the ex-wife said that she was afraid of her ex-husband and worried that he was going to kill her. Pa. killings suspect found dead with self-inflicted knife wounds, by Josh Bacon, Gregg Zoroya and Marisol Bello, USA Today, December 16, 2019. According to the district attorney involved with the case, the father and his ex-wife had been involved in an ongoing, contentious custody dispute with the father recently being denied in his attempt for emergency custody of their two children, ages 5 and 7. These two children were not harmed in the father's attack. Rather, it appears that they saw at least some of the violence before their father took them to a neighbor's house. The father later apparently took his own life.

Stories like this can frighten anyone going through a contentious custody battle. While this father's actions are certainly the extreme and happen only rarely, they do happen. If you are involved in a contentious family law case and you think your ex could react violently and/or you fear him/her in any way, tell someone. There are resources that can help you. In Fulton County, for example, there is a Domestic Violence Project Safe Families Office that provides legal representation at no cost to those seeking a Temporary Restraining Order. (You must qualify for the service.) There are also tips on their website that can help understand your options. The tips listed on the Fulton County website are helpful no matter what county you live in. In addition, if you are in court, you can let the Judge know of your fears and request a Temporary Restraining Order right then and there. It is unclear whether the ex-wife in the Pennsylvania case obtained a Temporary Restraining Order against her ex-husband, though it appears she at least told some friends about her fears. It is also unclear whether a Temporary Restraining Order would have stopped the violence from taking place, as the father was clearly on a mission to hurt his ex and her family. But, do not let this discourage you from obtaining one if you think you need to - Temporary Restraining Orders can get authorities involved more quickly where they may otherwise be hesitant to get involved in a family law matter. If you are fearful of an ex and think he may resort to violence as a result of a contentious custody case, there is no harm, or shame, in requesting a Temporary Restraining Order to protect you and your family.


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