Domestic Violence and Custody

On December 1, 2012, then-Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, in the couple’s home, then drove to the team’s practice facility and killed himself.  Now, Belcher’s mother and Perkins’ family are embroiled in a custody dispute over the couple’s four-month-old daughter, Zoey.


Sadly, domestic violence is growing more common – perpetrators of domestic violence cause more than 100 deaths per year just in Arizona, 60-80% of which involve firearms.  According to an Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence (AZCADV) press release issued just after the Kansas City murder-suicide, domestic violence is “a pattern of behavior used by one partner to exert power and control over the other.”  The AZCADV correctly describes domestic violence as taking many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse.  Domestic violence plays a significant role in family courts – results in dissolution actions and custody hearings can change dramatically if one of the parties is an abuser.

In Arizona, A.R.S. § 25-403.03 establishes a rebuttable presumption that joint legal decision-making (custody) of a child cannot be awarded if there is a history of significant domestic violence perpetrated by one of the parties.  Overcoming this presumption against joint legal decision making when a parent has displayed a history of abuse can be a tall order.


As far as Zoey’s placement is concerned, Belcher’s history of domestic violence does not play such a direct role in any custody determination.  For young children who have experienced domestic violence or whose parents were killed, psychologists typically recommend stability.  Zoey had already spent significant time with Belcher’s mother before the murder, so leaving the child in her custody would make sense.

Perkins’ family recently took Zoey to Texas to attend her mother’s funeral, however, and several news outlets report that they have since refused to return her to Belcher’s mother’s care as they prepare to sue for custody.

About Gregg R. Woodnick, PLLC

Gregg R. Woodnick, P.L.L.C. is a family and criminal defense practice in Arizona. Our small team of attorneys includes adjunct professors at law schools, lecturers of legal-medical issues in medical colleges, and recipients of numerous awards in Arizona. You can read more about the attorneys and their practice areas at
This entry was posted in Brad TenBrook, Divorce, Gregg R. Woodnick, Leslie A. Satterlee and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Domestic Violence and Custody

  1. I like your webpage. Impressive insight on the subject of this subject, thanks
    a lot for sharing with us.

  2. Many thanks for creating posts such as these to help keep awareness.
    Be sure to look over my site and follow it, too!

  3. Separation, custody, alimony and other divorce related issues are vary complicated and sometimes very painful. A good advice is very important for people who have problems in their families. Your articles allow people to choose the right way of managing their divorce problems. Would you please write something to Attorney Online? Your legal experience can be very useful to my readers. You can promote your legal services in your articles, news and blog posts on Attorney Online and submit your contacts to Attorney Directory (for example, to the section of Kansas divorce lawyers ). I also can write an article to your legal blog, so I think we have a lot of opportunities for cooperation…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s