At best, working with family law issues around child custody can be frustrating and difficult. At worst, disagreements over child custody can tear apart families and endanger children. A recent Florida case illustrates the importance of understanding — and protecting — the best interests of children.
In April, a Hillsborough County couple, Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife, Sharyn, were charged with child neglect, endangerment, kidnapping, and interference with custody after they kidnapped their children. A judge had earlier awarded custody of two-year-old Chase Hakken and four-year-old Cole Hakken to their maternal grandparents.
In this case, the loss of parental rights and award of custody to the grandparents was not made during a divorce proceeding but following parental instability that included:
Discovery of the parents and children with drugs and weapons in a Louisiana hotel room
Evidence the parents were discussing Armageddon and taking an ultimate journey
An attempt by Mr. Hakken to kidnap his children at gunpoint from foster care where they were placed after the incident
The present trouble began when Mr. Hakken went to the house of his mother-in-law, tied her up and removed his children from her custody. The family then sailed for Cuba, where officials repatriated them to the United States. After their return from Cuba the children, who thought they were on vacation with their parents, were returned to the custody of their grandparents.
It is unclear what led Mr. and Mrs. Hakken to depart from the apparently peaceable life they had previously led with their children. Now facing serious charges and having lost parental and other rights, the Hakken family face an uphill challenge to visit their children.
The safety of children in any situation is paramount.