Friday, May 23, 2014

Dad wants joint custody of ashes

I often complain that family court judges unnecessarily interject themselves into private families, with the excuse that if the parents do not agree 100 on everything, the judge has the right to dictate their lives.

A new Florida appeals case, Wilson v. Wilson (Fla. Ct. App. May 21, 2014), reads like a parody of what is wrong with the court:
The twenty-three year old son, single and without children, died in a tragic automobile accident. He left no will and no written or verbal instructions for disposition of his body. His parents are co-personal representatives of their son’s estate, and the sole beneficiaries.

After their son’s death, the parents agreed to have his body cremated. They were unable, however, to agree on the final disposition of his ashes. The mother wanted to bury the son’s ashes in West Palm Beach, Florida. The father wanted to bury the son’s ashes in a family burial plot in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
The mom demanded sole custody of the ashes, the dad asked to just split them, and so the judge decided to "appoint a curator or other suitable person" to carry out the disposition, according to the best interest of the ashes.

You probably think that I am making this up, but that is pretty much what the decision said. Read it yourself.

A law professor quotes another court:
It is a sorrowful matter to have relatives disputing in court over the remains of the deceased. In this case in particular, there is no solution that will bring peace to all parties. We express our sympathies to both sides in their loss, which must be magnified by these proceedings.
The suggestion here is that the relatives are being unreasonable by having a dispute, and the judge is trying his best to resolve. But it only takes one to create a dispute, and in this case it is the mom. The courts dragged this out for a year or two when it should only take 5 minutes. No amount of hearings or lawyering will ever reach a more just distribution or disposition of the ashes.

1 comment:

HeligKo said...

Interesting to me how judges won't just side with the reasonable person. In most custody cases, you have a father and mother bickering. The fathers often just want fairness. To split time with the kids, and the mothers want control. Its no different with the ashes. I think that judges should just start ruling against the unreasonable parent who doesn't want to share both the privilege and responsibility of raising the children or in this case taking care of the remains. It seems to go the other way though. The end result of giving a father full custody when he was asking for an equal time share with the kids, is he is more likely to encourage a fair schedule with the mother when the courts are out of the middle of things, while the mother who is seeking to limit the fathers time is likely to feel emboldened by the small victory to further harass the father during his time or to limit his time altogether on her own.