All over yesterday’s news, including the Dallas Morning New, were reports that Deion Sanders won his custody trial. As reported, Deion received sole custody of his two sons with his wife, Pilar. The parties also were awarded shared custody of their daughter. In English, Deion will make all educational, health and extracurricular decisions for his two sons, ages 11 and 13, and the parties will share that responsibility for their 9-year-old daughter
As these things tend to be, this was a nasty custody fight, with Pilar making allegations of abuse and Deion alleging that this was all about the money.
For a New Jersey divorce attorney, what is also interesting about this case is that it was decided by a jury of 7 women and 5 men. The concept of a jury deciding custody, or for that matter, any family law issue other than perhaps (but not always) a marital tort, is completely foreign in New Jersey and most jurisdictions. In fact, other than perhaps Georgia, I am unaware of any other jurisdiction where there are jury trials for custody. New York used to have jury trials to decide a contested divorce – i.e. whether the fault cause of action had been proven. I suspect that this too is largely a thing of the past since no-fault divorce was recently enacted in New York, as previously noted on this blog.
In New Jersey, typically custody decisions take weeks if not months to get a decision from a judge. In the Sanders case, the jury deliberated for less than two hours. In New Jersey, the decision is determined less by the he said/she said, mud slinging, and more upon the testimony of one or more custody experts. Moreover, as noted in my blog post last week entitled Custody – Back to Basics, the decision must consider the 14 factors set forth in the custody statute.