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Texas suit filed over custody of Jovan Belcher's daughter

A baby whose unmarried parents died in a well-publicized murder-suicide is at the center of a dispute between the child's grandparents. Child custody litigation is active in Texas and Missouri over the infant, whose father -- professional football player Jovan Belcher -- killed the child's mother and later turned the gun on himself.

Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, had been residing with the child's parents at the time of the deaths. The paternal grandmother was granted child custody immediately after the fatal shootings and filed for guardianship. Shepard also petitioned a probate court to act as conservator for her granddaughter's estate, valued at $1 million.

The parents of Belcher's slain girlfriend live in Tarrant County, Texas. According to a letter Shepherd sent to probate, the maternal grandparents took advantage of having the infant in their care during the funeral for the baby's mother. The Texas relatives reportedly refused to send the little girl back to Jovan Belcher's mother.

Communications apparently ended between Belcher's mother and the maternal grandparents. The Texas grandparents now have petitioned a court for the child's relocation, temporary custody and a guardian to represent the infant's interests.

Belcher's mother stated that she is prepared to dispute the request at a scheduled Jan. 22 custody hearing in Texas.

A guardian or conservator for the child or her estate would manage a large amount of money while the girl was growing up. Along with team trust proceeds and public support, a National Football League union agreement ensures that the infant will receive $108,000 each year for four years.

Annual payments of $48,000 to $52,000 then would supplement the child's financial care until adulthood or college graduation.

A court-appointed guardian ad litem would represent legal and other matters exclusively for the child's best interests. Guardians ad litem are charged with multiple tasks in custody cases, including making sure court orders are followed, providing court testimony and making custody recommendations.

Source: newsone.com, "Families Of Jovan Belcher, Kassandra Perkins Battle For Custody Of Baby Zoey," Hannington Dia, Jan. 7, 2013

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