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Custody decision reached in case involving deceased NFL star

During the month of December, football-related headlines usually address regular season matchups, player injuries or the impending playoff picture. However, this past December, these headlines became decidedly grimmer following a tragic murder-suicide involving an up-and-coming player.

On December 1, Jovan Belcher, a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to the team's facilities and taking his own life in front of coaches and personnel. Sadly, the couple left behind a newborn baby.

The care of the baby, now nine months old, initially fell to her mother's first cousin who resides here in Texas. However, Belcher's mother, who resides in New York, eventually sought primary custody of the infant girl as well.

The matter came to a head last week during a three-day hearing before a probate commissioner in Jackson County, Missouri.

Over the course of the hearing, the two sides claimed the best interests of the child would be best served by having her live with them, while also attacking each other's suitability as a parent.

For example, Belcher's mother claimed that the cousin had the baby in daycare for an access amount of time, while the cousin claimed the Belcher's mother had a smoking habit and that the police had been called to her home an inordinate number of times over the past two decades.

In the end, the probate commissioner awarded custody to the cousin, citing the significant bonding time she had already spent with the infant and the fact that her home was perhaps more stable.

While the circumstances underlying this child custody case are truly tragic, it is worth noting that the young girl will be well provided for in the years to come.

That's because the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement dictate that she will receive $108,000 a year for the next four years, $48,000 in the fifth year and $52,000 a year until she turns 18 (23 if she attends college). Furthermore, the Chiefs owners, coaches, players and employees set up a trust fund for the girl as well. All of these finances are firmly in control of a financial institution.

Source: USA Today, "Judge awards custody of Jovan Belcher's daughter," Bill Draper, June 20, 2013

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