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Texas cousin wins custody of NFL player's orphaned baby

The child of a National Football League linebacker became an orphan in December when her father shot and killed the baby's mother and later committed suicide. Linebacker Jovan Belcher's daughter Zoey Perkins was a newborn when her parents died.

A family law judge recently decided where the 9-month-old child would grow up. Child custody has been an ongoing issue. Jovan Belcher's mother in New York and the baby's maternal aunt in Pflugerville, Texas, each sought guardianship of Zoey.

The custody case was decided in Missouri where the athlete lived and played professional football for the Kansas City Chiefs. Belcher turned a gun on his child's mother in the couple's home and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he shot himself and died in front of team officials.

The judge heard arguments from both sides of the child's family. The girl's grandmother said she would be a better guardian because the aunt would place the child in day care 45 hours each week. The aunt said the grandmother was a smoker who lived an unstable life.

The judge conceded that both relatives had sincere concern for the baby's welfare, although he chose the Texas aunt to be the girl's guardian. The decision to award custody to the cousin was partially based on multiple recorded police calls to the grandmother's residence over 20 years.

The baby spent much of her young life in the mid-state Texas city. The court recognized the bond between the child and her aunt.

The child will receive substantial income from the NFL and a separate trust fund until she becomes an adult or graduates college. Zoey's continued financial wellbeing has been entrusted to a third-party conservator.

Custody disputes are stressful even when concerned parties share a geographical area. Family law courts have an overwhelming obligation to make rulings based on a child's best interests not necessarily decisions that fit adult desires.

Source:, "Cousin wins custody of Belcher's child" No author given, Jun. 21, 2013

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