On Wednesday, December 2, 2015, while a holiday office party was taking place at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, dressed in masks and body armor, entered the facility with assault weapons and started to fire upon the unsuspecting participants. At approximately 11:00 a.m., fourteen of Farook’s co-workers lay dead, while twelve others lay seriously injured. Hours later, after leaving the facility and participating in a dramatic car chase, Farook and Malik also lay dead, the result of a police shootout.
What not many know is approximately one hour before these tragic events unfurled, under what appeared to be very normal circumstances, Farook telephoned his mother and asked if she was available to babysit the parties’ six-month old daughter for a few hours. Farook stated he and his wife had a doctor appointment to attend and they did not want to bring the baby with them. Farook’s mother, like any grandmother, was more than happy to oblige and presented at the couple’s residence to watch the child. Farook’s mother was still caring for the couple’s child when she learned of the shootings at the Inland Regional Center and her son and daughter-in-law’s roles in it. With both of her parents deceased, who will care for the six-month old infant?
What will happen to the six-month old little girl is dependent upon whether or not her parents prepared wills, or more specifically, included a provision for the appointment of a guardian in their wills. If the couple did prepare such a document and designated a specific individual to act as guardian for their daughter in the event of their deaths, pending court approval, that individual will be appointed as the child’s guardian.
In most cases, if parents do not have wills containing a guardian designation, a grandparent or other relative will step forward to care for the orphaned child and request the guardian appointment. However, since any guardian appointment is subject to court approval, any family member who comes forward for this little girl, will most certainly be subject to thorough screening on what, if anything, they knew about the parents’ December 2nd plan. As a court must give “weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child,” as well as, review any potential guardian’s past criminal record, any knowledge about the events that occurred on December 2nd, no matter how insignificant, may have a negative impact upon the custody outcome.
If no family member steps forward to care for the child, or if none is deemed fit by the court, the child will be declared “dependent,” meaning she has no parent, guardian or custodian responsible for her care and/or supervision, and will become a ward of the court. This will result in her placement in to the foster care system through Children and Youth Services, with an immediate goal of adoption due to her tender years.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.