In Gilbert Arizona, Jennifer Smith is accused of murdering her husband in cold blood over a custody dispute. Two days before she murdered her estranged husband the children were taken from her by child protective services.
Jennifer Smith murdered her estranged husband Paul Smith, as he was stopped in his car along a congested road near a very large fire. According to news reports, Jennifer and Paul had a very rocky relationship where there were domestic violence issues in the home over several years.
During the divorce proceedings Jennifer was able to gain primary custody of the children she and Paul had together. Unfortunately, under Arizona state law, if one partner commits acts of domestic violence he or she would be denied joint parenting privileges. We don’t know if either Jennifer Smith or her husband Paul Smith were ever charged with domestic violence so we cannot determine if this factor even came into play during the divorce proceedings.
What is clear, from media reports, was that Jennifer has had some mental health issues in her past which led to the troubles in the marriage.
Regardless of the reasons Jennifer murdered husband to request is why she had custody during the divorce proceedings in the first place Arizona’s recent joint parenting law should have placed the children in Paul’s custody at least on a 50/50 split. However this was not the case.
Media reports indicate Jennifer lost custody of her children through child protective services intervention two days prior to her murdering her estranged husband. Clearly, Arizona Child Protective Services did not seem to fit allow the mother custody then why did a judge, who is bound by law to enforce joint parenting laws, give primary custody to a deranged, homicidal woman?
Unfortunately, we may never know the answer to this question. However, this case should highlight the problems with Arizona’s new joint parenting law.
First off, many courts don’t fully enforce or enact the joint parenting law as it was intended. Courts throughout Arizona still seem to have the notion children are better off with their mother as primary caregivers. Sadly, in Jennifer Smith’s case the court grossly underestimated the mother’s fitness for parenting.
Secondly, under Arizona law fathers have a “joint parenting right” for 50/50 parenting time but he must still fight for his rights. It seems fathers still face a grueling battle even when Arizona laws give him rights on “paper” he still must prove his fitness in “court” despite written rule.
Clearly, men’s and father’s rights organizations in Arizona have a long way to go before fathers are treated is equally as mothers in family relations courts. We need to keep vigilant and keep acting to pass new laws and strengthening existing ones to ensure fathers actually have equal rights in a divorce court.
Source: Wife Murders Husband in Custody Dispute But Not the Whole Story ~Men’s Views Magazine