What Matters in a Custody Dispute? Lessons from Usher

Once a court established custody, it can be difficult to change in the future. By now, you have likely heard about the unfortunate incident which occurred last week when entertainer Usher’s four year old child almost drowned. The child’s aunt was watching him while Usher was in the recording studio and the child dove down to the drain in his aunt’s pool to get a toy. The pressure from the drain sucked the boy to the bottom of the pool and his aunt and another woman at the home could not pull him off the bottom of the pool. Two contractors doing work at the house managed to pull him off the drain and resuscitate him. He is now recovering in the hospital. When the child had only been in the hospital for hours, Usher’s ex-wife filed papers with the court stating that custody should be changed from Usher to her. Some thought it was very bad taste for her to be contacting her attorney when she should have been focused on her son getting well. Many think she doesn’t have a case to change custody at all. Even though the child could have been killed, did anyone do anything wrong?

In this situation, the child was being watched closely. The child was not doing anything dangerous. The danger was a drain which has injured and killed many children, but which is not required to be replaced in home pools. Usher was not negligent in any way (and neither was the child’s aunt who was watching him) and he was not charged with child endangerment or any other crime. Once a court has established custody, it is difficult to change without proving the child is in danger or the child will likely be harmed by the current custody situation.

Accidents happen. Children fall off their bikes, they take chances they should not take and sometimes they get hurt. The fact that a child gets injured does not in and of itself mean that a parent is at fault. On the other hand, children should be supervised. Parents are required to provide rules and supervision to keep children safe. Common sense can usually guide you as to whether an incident is worthy of going back to court to change custody or parenting time. Before you call an attorney, ask other parents what they think about an incident and whether a parent was negligent for any injury.