- Associated Press - Saturday, August 20, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The father of a Grimes toddler who died while in his mother’s care has asked Iowa lawmakers to make changes to the state’s child custody laws.

Dillon Wyckoff told lawmakers at a family law summit Friday at the Iowa Capitol that he “did everything in my power to save my son’s life,” the Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/2b8hoMY ).

“It was not me that let Mason down that morning, but rather the very system put in place to protect him from this exact outcome,” Wyckoff said.

Authorities discovered Wyckoff’s 2-year-old son, Mason, dead in his mother’s Grimes home on July 22. The boy’s mother, Stephenie Erickson, was unresponsive at the time and later died after being taken to a hospital.

An autopsy showed both died from a prescription opiate overdose, and authorities are investigating the deaths as murder-suicide.

Wyckoff said he was worried about Erickson’s mental health and alerted various authorities, but that they disregarded his pleas to remove the boy from his mother’s care.

Wyckoff, who had not been married to Erickson, said he wanted to seek custody of his son, but worried Erickson might react violently.

Wyckoff and others called on lawmakers to pass shared parenting laws that would require courts to grant equal parenting time to parents unless evidence showed it wouldn’t be in the child’s best interest.

Gov. Terry Branstad has said he hopes state lawmakers will revisit custody laws, and fathers’ rights activists have said they will continue pushing for change when the Iowa Legislature returns in January.

Advocacy group IowaFathers has pushed for the change over the last decade without success. The Iowa State Bar Association opposes the change, maintaining it would do more harm than good for families seeking resolution through divorce proceedings.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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