Undra Henderson had just picked up his three-month-old daughter when his ex drove her SUV into the back of his car, forcing his vehicle across an intersection and into a light pole. Then she backed up and hit him again.
“I told him I was going to kill him,” she said, according to the Daily Mail, but it was their daughter, Khy’undra, who died in the crash.
Atlanta police say the 21-year-old mother, Titayanna Phillips, suffers from mental illness which caused her to lose custody of the child.
Last Friday, July 24, Phillips had fled with the baby during a doctor’s appointment and led police on an hours-long chase, finally agreeing to stop and hand Khy’undra over. Two weeks before? She was arrested for disorderly conduct after attacking Henderson and forcing him to jump off a staircase.
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It’s hard to understand why Phillips wasn’t in a care facility or custody on the day she killed her daughter. Why didn’t authorities help Henderson secure a safer means of exchange when it was so obvious that Phillips was a danger?
The father survived the crash, but now he must deal with the death of his child. He posted online on Tuesday, “blessed to be alive but without khy’undra this s— don’t even matter.”
How to Keep Yourself Safe During a Custody Exchange
Men are often shamed when they seek protection from abusive women, but police and the courts won’t volunteer to protect you, you have to request assistance. They don’t always help women who are facing abuse either. Fortunately, all single parents can help protect themselves in touchy co-parenting situations.
Find a neutral party to handle custody exchanges. You can hire a babysitter to handle exchanges. One parent drops off the child, leaves, and the other arrives to pick up the kids without any parental interaction. There are some professional custody exchange services available as well.
Meet in public places when no-contact child exchanges aren’t possible. Banks, police stations and government buildings are good choices because they often have security and plenty of surveillance.
Keep a voice-activated recorder on you during custody exchanges. Depending on the laws in your state, you may have to get permission to record your co-parent. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, get in the habit of taking notes immediately following each exchange.
Hire personal security. It might seem like overkill, but hiring a bodyguard can give you the protection you need without the stress of relying on the authorities. Bodyguards can be silent observers who keep their own notes and are never noticed by your children or ex. Just make sure to work with someone who has professional experience, insurance and meets the licensing requirements in your state.
When It’s Time To File a Restraining Order
Work with your lawyer if you’re still in the midst of a divorce. Some states handle these situations differently and filing for a traditional order will complicate the process. If you don’t have an open divorce or family law case, or just don’t have an attorney, many courts have staff who can help you apply for the restraining order.
You do not have to press charges in order to file for an order of protection. Most courts will put temporary protection orders in place as soon as your co-parent is served, followed by a hearing in one to two weeks to determine any ongoing needs, like supervised exchanges or parenting time for the other party.
Undra Henderson fought hard to keep his child safe. The system let them down time and time again. Their story isn’t unique enough for you to let your guard down. If you’re at all worried about your safety, take extra steps to protect yourself and your child.