When Child Custody Becomes Deadly

“His children were his life,” Prather’s sister Jerdonna Sawyer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wasn’t crazy at all. He just chose a terrible way to deal with his pressure and his stress.”

We are all saddened by this tragedy in Georgia, in the town of Douglasville, in which a father just could not take it any longer. Family members are grieving, and we may never learn the whole story.

Loss and stress do terrible things to the minds of people who could otherwise manage fine, but the escalated conflict surrounding divorce and child custody is enough to put many over the edge.

This father is one of a large handful in Georgia to end his own life, and one of several around the country who have murdered family members during the taking of their own lives.

So we advocate for reducing conflict and ensuring protections, as much as can possibly happen. Based on our data the courts and certain court professionals are exacerbating conflict rather than helping parents receive proper counseling and guidance.

If you recall the murder of Donna Kristofak in Cobb County not too long ago, she also had a restraining order and the court knew she was in danger. She tried to protect herself. These cases are different but there is still much we can learn by studying what happened in both.

When one parent loses control and believes they can no longer function or have any quality of life, something can switch in their brain and cause the urge to do something extreme and rash like finding a gun or a knife to use. It is not the choice of the weapon that matters, but the opportunity and the circumstances that feed this rage and desperation.

We can and must do better.

Our research has identified cases that are ripe for more loss and tragedy, and much of it could have been lessened if not avoided.

Please join the conversation on Pro Advocate Radio and follow our posts on our blog and on other social media. Let us know what you can contribute – how you can help?

In the meantime, watch for parents who are struggling around the loss of their children, their jobs, homes and health. Look for ways to ease their stress and to intervene if the situation makes no sense.

Court House

About Public Information Officer

Deb Beacham of Atlanta is the founder of My Advocate Center, Inc., a Georgia non-profit corporation created in 2011 to serve the rapidly growing needs of families and children caught in conflict.

What is Solutions-Based Journalism?
Researching and reporting are being leveraged in the development of creative solutions to help families preserve their time, energy, financial resources and homes for the benefit of their children. Public awareness and engagement are key so Ms. Beacham launched programming for professionals serving families, reaching more than a million listeners across the metro Atlanta area. Pro Advocate Radio will be announcing its next series in 2017.