Violence and Family Law: The Hughes-Ferrell Case

Violence and Family Law: The Hughes-Ferrell Case


By M. J. Goodwin

This week’s news item found here is particularly disturbing to me as a family law attorney.

From what is reported in the media, it seems that the conflict that resulted in the death of this man, and the arrest of his wife and four others, stemmed from a custody battle. In an ironic twist, now the children who were at the heart of that custody case, have no custodial parent to care for them and are reportedly in foster care. Their father is dead and it seems likely that their mother will be incarcerated for a significant period of time. Two of their grandparents and an uncle are also in jail.

Family Court is perhaps the most emotional, most contentious court in which one can be involved. A good lawyer will always encourage his or her clients to remain calm and focus on reason rather than emotion. This is a difficult task, but it is crucial to moving forward in life and avoiding potential problems such as the Hughes-Ferrell murder.

When a client describes a potentially violent or unstable situation to me, I encourage the following:

*have a good, experienced family law attorney

*be completely honest with the attorney

*avoid all contact with the other person and their relatives.

*call law enforcement if threatened

*do not make contact by text, phone or email

*follow court orders to the letter

*preserve any texts or emails sent by the other party

*allow phone calls to go to voice mail in order to preserve what was said

*record visitation exchanges

*take a witness to visitation exchanges

*understand that even in the worst situations (drug use, physical abuse, etc), parents typically get to see their children. There may be conditions and rules, but the contact and the bond of parent and child is not severed absent very specific findings of the Court.

*be reasonable in expectations and in negotiations.

It would appear from the news reports that one or both of the litigants in the Hughes-Ferrell case did not understand the workings of the Family Court system. A horrific crime and a terrible tragedy occurred as a result.

If you are in need of an experienced family court attorney, contact me by email at:






Leave a Comment