Guardianship issues remain for child

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After 2-year-old Aiden McCarthy’s parents were killed in a mass shooting on the 4th of July in Highland Park, the boy, according to his maternal grandfather, asked, “Are mommy and daddy coming soon?”

“He doesn’t know,” Michael Levberg said in the days after the shooting. “He doesn’t realize it.”

That very question — whether to tell Aiden what happened to his parents — became the focus of a debate among the relatives taking care of the boy, who recently turned 3. One psychologist recommended telling him, while another recommended waiting until he asked.

The debate is one of several that have ended up in court, where families, friends, doctors and judges are trying to figure out the best way to help the boy. The most pressing issues are who will take care of Aiden and how to manage more than $3 million in funds donated for the child.

The day of the shooting, Aiden was attending the Independence Day parade with his parents when someone on a rooftop began firing at the crowd with a high-powered semi-automatic rifle. Aiden was found after his father, Kevin McCarthy, shielded his son during the shooting. The boy’s mother, Irina McCarthy, also died in the attack, which killed seven people and wounded dozens.

Robert Crimo III, 22, of Highland Park, has been charged in the attack and is awaiting trial. If convicted in Illinois court, where state law does not allow the death penalty, he faces mandatory life in prison.

By an agreed court order, Aiden is in the care of his two grandmothers, who were named the boy’s temporary co-guardians. They take turns caring for Aiden at his parents’ home in Highland Park.

Aiden and grandfather Michael Levberg have been named in previous Tribune stories about the shooting, but the paper is not using the names of other relatives named in court documents in this story because of safety concerns.

Aiden’s paternal aunt and uncle, who live in Iowa, previously were named temporary coguardians and now are asking to be named guardians. All have helped take care of Aiden, which has included taking him to and from preschool.

But there are signs that cooperation is ending. Recently, the maternal grandparents filed a request to remove Aiden’s other grandmother and take sole guardianship of their grandson and his estate, setting the stage for more protracted litigation.

The grandparents argued through their attorney Ira Cohen that more than the father’s family, they had helped with the daily care of Aiden since birth, including doctor’s appointments for medical issues. The maternal grandparents argued that at age 70, it’s difficult for the paternal grandmother to take care of Aiden for long periods by herself, while noting they are slightly younger.

Sen. Dick Durbin speaks in front of a photo of Aiden McCarthy during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focusing on mass shootings on July 20, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Aiden's parents were killed in the mass shooting on July 4th in Highland Park,

Aiden has not adapted well to his grandparents taking turns with him and frequently gets upset when he has to leave his maternal grandparents, they argued. Their attorney stated they are “ready, willing and able to properly care for Aiden on a daily basis without the assistance … of any other person.”

The guardian ad litem in the case, Marc Schwartz, who was appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interests, has not yet filed his report in the case but recommended that the maternal grandparents be awarded guardianship, according to their legal filing.

One of the paternal grandmother’s attorneys, James Quigley, had no comment but said they would be filing a response to address those allegations.

Attorneys for Aiden’s grandmother and aunt and uncle on his father’s side previously filed court documents saying the shared parenting generally worked well, but some problems had arisen.

“Although a more permanent plan for Aiden’s care will need to be determined, for now, the agreed upon plan provides Aiden the stability of remaining in his home and the comfort and familiarity of both sides of his immediate family providing him care,” the legal brief stated.

One dispute arose over Aiden’s mother’s parents asking for a video monitor in Aiden’s room so they can watch him remotely. But his father’s family unplugged the monitor during their time in the home to get “private, quality time” without being “intruded upon.”

“Recently, a more serious dispute arose,” the court filing continued. In August, the aunt and uncle asked that Aiden be brought to visit them in Iowa during their assigned time with the boy. The maternal grandparents challenged the trips, but the court allowed them.

In another incident, while Aiden was swimming at a family pool party with his father’s family, his maternal grandmother called and texted to ask where he was, and his paternal grandmother replied that he was safe with her. When the paternal grandmother returned home with Aiden, police were waiting. They said the other grandmother had filed a missing-person report but they took no formal action.

Despite that incident, the court filing stated, relations between the families had been “cordial.”

In another area of contention, the boy’s paternal grandmother filed a motion to enroll the child in therapy, which his maternal grandmother opposed.

Dr. Gail Grossman, a forensic psychologist, recommended that Aiden should be told his parents are dead and begin therapy immediately. Dr. Robert Shapiro, another forensic psychologist, disagreed.

Schwartz, the guardian ad litem, recommended that Aiden not be told until he asks what happened to his parents, and not be required to enter therapy. Schwartz also recommended that Grossman provide a script of how to respond if Aiden asks about his parents.

Apart from guardianship issues, another dispute arose over Aiden’s GoFundMe account.

The fund was created by a relative of Irina McCarthy by marriage and the relative’s husband. The fund has raised nearly $3.3 million.

In July, the relative thanked all contributors, writing, “The family of Aiden would like everyone to know that he is being loved and spoiled by all those who are close to him.

“We will be keeping this GoFundMe open as we have heard from many around the world that this is providing some form of healing for such a senseless act. No one should ever have to endure this kind of loss especially at such a young age.

“Every cent of this GoFundMe will go to the care of Aiden and his future. We are all extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from across the entire world.

“We also plan to capture all of the comments shared in this GoFundMe and create a book for Aiden. We all want Aiden to know how much he is loved.”

Initially, the creators of the fund were made its trustees. Subsequently, the court appointed a professional manager.

Aiden’s father’s family filed a petition challenging the trust, saying it would have been difficult to change without court action because it was an irrevocable trust. Their attorney, Kathleen Shores, argued that the fund was “insufficient” for tax and other purposes, and that there was “no need” for the fund’s creators to be trustees. The paternal relatives proposed terms they felt would be more comprehensive and “better take into account Aiden’s best interests.”

The parties eventually came to an agreement, and the court ordered the funds to be transferred to an escrow account with The Chicago Trust Co., though other issues remain to be decided.

The family wished the fund’s creators had conferred with them prior to the GoFundMe campaign so that they could have weighed in on the decision to release Aiden’s name to the public, their attorney said.

“The unfortunate truth is that the financial benefit to Aiden from the GoFundMe campaign has come at a cost,” Shores wrote, “namely a substantial loss of privacy.”

The maternal grandparents since have filed a request to be reimbursed for $11,000 in funeral expenses, and to be made guardians of the estate. The next court date in the case was set for February.



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