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Interstate dispute over million dollar baby's custody looms

It's going to be Texas versus Missouri. And no, this isn't about the SEC college football season finale. Two sets of grandparents are lining up for what could be a fierce interstate child custody battle for the daughter of an NFL linebacker who committed a murder-suicide last month.

The child is currently with her maternal relatives in Austin, Texas, but both sets of grandparents asked the courts to assign a guardian ad litem - a legal representative looking after the best interests of the child - to advise the court until a permanent decision is reached.

According to reports, the paternal grandmother, who was staying with the family at the time of the murder-suicide, received temporary custody of the child soon after the shootings and filed a petition in mid-December asking to be appointed as guardian and estate conservator. She also filed another petition asking the courts to be named as administrator of her late son's estate.

Reports indicate that the child was taken by her maternal grandparents to attend the mother's funeral. The child was not returned and taken to Texas. As a result, two separate lawsuits were filed, one in Texas and the other in Missouri.

The child was orphaned when her father, who played professional football in Missouri, fatally shot and killed the baby's mother after arguments over money. He later spoke to team officials and committed suicide at team headquarters. The latest autopsy reports found the athlete to have a blood alcohol content twice over the allowable alcohol limit at the time of the shooting.

The bitter lawsuits also have a large underlying financial angle. As sole beneficiary to her football player father's benefits, the child is supposed to receive more than $1 million under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, plus other financial incentives until she reaches 23 years of age.

A Texas judge already scheduled a hearing and the statuses of the lawsuits have been changed from "uncontested" to "contested." Both judges from Missouri and Texas will confer in order to discuss which state has jurisdiction in the case.

Source: Greenwich Time, "Missouri court to appoint lawyer for Belcher baby," Bill Draper, January 11, 2013

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