US judge on Corbett custody children: Jack and Sarah are citizens of Ireland
Corbett family: 'At last they're coming back but the reality is setting in we have lost our Jason'
Published 21/08/2015 | 02:30
Jason Corbett's second wife would not have been given custody of his children, even if he had failed to appoint a guardian in his will.
Clerk of Davidson County Superior Court Brian Shipwash said that it was not in the best interests of Jack (10) and Sarah (8) Corbett to award custody to their American stepmother.
The judge recognised that Mr Corbett had appointed his sister Tracey Lynch and her husband David as guardians to his children.
However, he said that under the circumstances he would have granted guardianship to Mr and Mrs Lynch in the absence of a will.
"I was asked to make such a decision on the lives of two incredibly precious children who have had to deal with the deaths of both their natural parents," said Mr Shipwash.
"To have peace with my decision, I removed the outside influencing factors and evaluated the purity of what would be in the children's best interest in a positive, loving and supportive environment to develop and mature."
Jack and Sarah's father, Jason Corbett, was killed on August 2 after a domestic incident at his home. Their mother, Mags, had died in 2006 after suffering an asthma attack.
The judge said that he had deliberated long and hard over his decision - and that he had prayed for the children.
"The named guardians can provide that (care needed). So after much legal research, deliberation, thought and prayer, these children will return to Ireland," he said.
Mr Shipwash concluded that awarding custody of the children to Molly Martens Corbett was not in their best interests in light of all of the facts and evidence.
Read more: Corbett children due home this weekend
Ms Martens Corbett is a suspect in the murder of their father Jason Corbett, who was found dead at his home in North Carolina earlier this month, having been bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat.
The judge said that he had considered that an investigation into Mr Corbett's death was still ongoing.
It also emerged in court that in 2013 Molly Martens Corbett had confided in a family friend that she had sought legal advice about divorce and gaining custody of the children.
One year later, she approached an attorney to discuss her rights to the children. She discussed adopting the children with Mr Corbett on a number of occasions, but he did not consent to a step-parent adoption.
Corbett Family members said that this was a bone of contention between the couple and they had fought about it just weeks before Mr Corbett's death.
"Appointing applicant Molly Martens Corbett instead of applicants Tracey and David Lynch would not be in the children's best interests," said the judge.
He said that he had considered that the Lynches had maintained a relationship with the children after they moved to the US. They remained in constant communication with the children since the move four years ago.
He also recognised that they had visited Jack and Sarah in the US in between the children making frequent trips back to Shannonside.
"Jack and Sarah Corbett are citizens of Ireland," he said.
"If the fact pattern were just the opposite and they were United States citizens, I would want to bring these children back to the US, where the extended family would be waiting to embrace them.
"The parents of Sarah and Jack, I am almost certain, would want their children to be raised in the land of their origin, where the culture, religion, customs and their extended family on both sides are prepared to nurture them in a manner that would be in the children's best interest."
The judge said that it was important that the Lynches had already enrolled Jack and Sarah in a school in Limerick.
"David and Tracey Lynch have maintained an ongoing relationship with the children and have a suitable home and familial support to give the minors a nurturing environment to deal with the deaths of both their parents and maintain the Irish culture and heritage in a manner consistent with their natural parents," he said.
"They have already arranged schooling and counselling for them in anticipation of their return to Ireland."
On the first day of the custody hearing last week, Molly Martens Corbett had asked for a licensed psychologist specialising in attachment disorders to assess the children.
The court heard that she wanted them "to evaluate removing a child from the mother who they have known for seven years".
The judge agreed. However, over the weekend he reconsidered this and his mind was made up. The Corbetts would be coming home to Ireland.
On Monday, Mr Shipwash ordered that the DSS (Department of Social Services) take possession of the children.
Social workers called to an address where Mrs Martens Corbett had been looking after Jack and Sarah.
Both families were then made aware of the custody decision before the children were passed on to the Lynchs.
Molly Martens Corbett was ordered to assist in the exchange by presenting the DSS with the children's passports, clothing and personal property.
The Lynchs were told that the children could not leave the US until after yesterday's hearing had concluded.
At home yesterday, Tracey's brother John was preparing for the return.
"We are elated they are coming back," he said. "But the reality is only now setting in that we have lost our brother."