Child Custody Most Dangerous Of Cases

Justin Meyer's attorney and other lawyers say unfortunately, violence is not unusual in emotional child custody cases.

When asked what went through her mind when she heard her client had gone on a shooting spree, Meyer's attorney, Suzanne Baker-Steele said, "Complete and utter disbelief that this could possibly happen and involve one of my clients."

Baker-Steele says she didn't even find out that her client had killed himself and three other people until about 11 Thursday morning. She says it was a nightmare ending every family law attorney dreads hearing.

In child custody issues, attorneys say they try to get parents to work together in the child's best interest.

"The worst of it is to see two people arguing when custody really ought not to be an issue and they're using the kids to get back at each other or to get even with each other," Baker-Steele said.

"We have cases where children are used as a pawn and really they aren't the issue but they're used as a vehicle in terms of whatever selfish motive one may have and that is very prevalent in custody cases," Attorney Melvin Cooper said.

All family related matters are decided in Chancery Court. Cooper says every case is different, and attorneys don't always recognize when one or both parents may snap.

"Certainly we don't know where they going to take that emotion but certainly we can recognize they're at a point that they need to basically reconcile with themselves," Cooper said.

In cases that are already emotionally charged, attorneys say parents don't always understand how the court system works and why it sometimes takes so long for the custody to be decided. Attorneys say the longer they have to wait, the more upset parents get.

"The attorneys sometimes take the brunt of it because 'why can't we get to court?' Well, on more than one occasion I've had to explain to people what a docketing system is and how many cases we have in Harrison County. All the factors are there for these types of meltdown," attorney Billy Miller said.

Donna DeFelippo's attorney Patricia Champagne didn't want to comment on her late client's custody issue. The attorneys we talked to say it's a miracle that someone hasn't been hurt or killed in the chancery courts because of the highly emotional and sensitive cases that are decided there.