When a couple with minor children separates, many times there are feelings of ill will, especially when there has been a custody dispute.  In recent weeks in South Florida, there have been several incidents that show the volatile emotions associated with handing a child over to a former partner.  One hand-over resulted in a murder-suicide involving a Pembroke Pines man, and another incident involved the torching of a Boynton Beach woman doused with gasoline and then set on fire by her ex-boyfriend.  Both of these violent incidents took place in public places.

One family law attorney stated that “emotions are always raw in a custody dispute,” and he added that even if you have known a person for years, you cannot anticipate everything he will do.

There is no statistical evidence that there has been an increase in domestic violence associated with sharing custody of a child in South Florida, according to one couples therapist, Paul Peluso.  Peluso feels that tough economic times can increase tensions and stresses that can contribute to such violent outbreaks.

If a divorce or separation has been confrontational with bad feelings between former parties in the relationship, the handing over of a child to the custody of the former partner can be fraught with dangers.  Peluso stated that if “one partner feels he came up short in the separation, he may feel that handing the child over is continuing to admit defeat by the other parent.”  It is difficult for clinicians and courts to know and predict what will cause people to act out irrationally and violently.

When Guillermo Garcia turned over his 7-year-old son to the child’s mother last Friday outside a Tampa restaurant, he opened fire with a handgun, killing her in front of her son and several other bystanders before shooting himself in the head.

Last week in Boynton Beach, Naomie Breton was set on fire and seriously burned when she showed up to pick up her 4-year-old son from his father outside of a 7-Eleven store.  Fortunately, their son was not there to witness the horrific attack on his mother.

Breton stated that she was meeting her son’s father in a public place given his history of domestic violence.  What she learned by this incidence is “that no matter where you go, and how much security there is, there is always danger.”