Monday, April 17, 2006
"Last June, after a long dispute, a judge decided that Bobby F. Spurlock and Zandrea Johnson should share custody of their daughter. Then came Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Spurlock, whose home in Jefferson Parish was undamaged in the storm, remained in Louisiana. Ms. Johnson, whose home in eastern New Orleans was destroyed, evacuated, with the child, to Memphis. Now Ms. Johnson plans to stay in Memphis indefinitely, and an already unpleasant clash over the best interest of a 6-year-old girl is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. The storm and the flooding that came with it here uprooted families, leaving them in staggering states of stress and uncertainty. For some families, already torn apart by separation and divorce, like Mr. Spurlock and Ms. Johnson, the fallout has been especially damaging, producing painful new battles over child custody and visitation, financial support and division of assets. "How can things change from joint custody to relocation in a couple of months?" asked Mr. Spurlock, a 37-year-old sales manager for a car dealership. "I am not trying to take her from her mom, but I want equal time with my daughter."
After the damaged Orleans Parish Civil District Court set up operations near Baton Rouge in October, custody and support cases began to mount. Since January, when the court returned to New Orleans, judges and lawyers say they have seen scores of family disputes related to the storm. Other parishes have experienced similar surges." By Lynette Clemetson, New York Times Link to Article (last visited 4-16-06 NVS)