by Danica Joan Dockery, M.Ed
In the wake of an utterly heart-wrenching incident that has left a family shattered and a community reeling, we are once again reminded of the critical importance of advocating for equal shared parenting arrangements. The tragic event, which unfolded near my home in Polk County, Florida, involved a mother taking the lives of her two children before tragically ending her own. The devastating outcome serves as a stark reminder of why we must prioritize shared parenting to prevent such traumatic incidents.
The central figure in this tragedy, Brandy Hutchins, was embroiled in a custody battle over her 10-year-old son. The court had ruled that custody should be transferred to the child’s father, who lived in a different state. Unfortunately, Brandy failed to comply with the court order and instead chose a path that led to unimaginable sorrow.
While the focus of the custody battle was primarily on the younger child, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the emotional toll of such legal conflicts can extend to all members of the family. In this case, the older sibling, who had a different father and was not directly involved in the custody dispute, also became a victim of this heartbreaking incident.
Advocates for equal shared parenting emphasize the importance of both parents maintaining active and meaningful roles in their children’s lives. The tragic outcome in this case underscores the need for a system that promotes collaborative co-parenting, ensuring that children can maintain strong bonds with both parents even in the face of separation or divorce.
The events that transpired cast light on the strains that custody battles can place on parents, particularly when emotions run high and conflicts escalate. These battles can result in decisions that are driven by distress rather than the best interests of the children involved. Equal shared parenting aims to reduce the acrimony often associated with custody disputes and emphasizes the fundamental principle that both parents play integral roles in their children’s upbringing.
Preventing such traumatic outcomes requires not only legislative changes but also a cultural shift towards recognizing the significance of co-parenting. We must work to provide resources, support, and education to families navigating separation or divorce, helping them understand that shared parenting can lead to better emotional and psychological outcomes for children.
As we mourn the lives lost in this devastating incident, let us channel our grief into action. Let us collectively advocate for reforms that prioritize shared parenting arrangements, empowering families to navigate difficult times while safeguarding the well-being of their children. By working together, we can strive to prevent such heart-wrenching tragedies and create a future where children are shielded from the emotional scars of custody battles gone awry.
Danica Joan Dockery is a certified family mediator, anger management/domestic violence specialist and co-parenting expert, the author of “A Happy Child Co-Parenting Course” a court ordered family stabilization course for parents who are navigating the challenges of co-parenting after a breakup. She is also the founder of Kids Need Both, Inc and co-creator of the Hope4Families.net platform, a collaborative community that provides education, support and resources to families.