A custody battle nearly a decade in the making has come to a final resolve.
The struggle for custody of 11 year old Sidney Watkins began in 2010 when she was just three years old. Steven Watkins, Sidney’s father, was murdered on November 25th, 2008. Shirley Skinner, Sidney’s maternal great-grandmother, was sentenced to a 55-year prison sentence for Steven’s murder about a year and a half later.
Then, Steven’s parents were granted visitation privileges, but Sidney’s mother Jennifer Watkins took Sidney out of Illinois to avoid the court-ordered visitation. Jennifer and Sidney were discovered in Massachusetts in 2016. At that time, Jennifer was arrested and Sidney was brought back to Illinois and began staying in her now permanent home.
First reported today by the Springfield Journal-Register, Jennifer Watkins has agreed to end her attempts to gain sole custody of her daughter, and as part of an agreement will still be granted 5 hours of visitation every two weeks with her daughter. According to the Journal-Register, the previous visitation arrangement was two and a half hours every Thursday, and now that has been condensed to a bi-weekly 5 hour session every other Sunday.
The Springfield paper continued by clarifying that Cass County Judge Bob Hardwick followed the recommendation of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In August, the state DCFS declared their opinion that Sidney’s temporary stay in Virginia with her paternal aunt and uncle should become permanent. According to previous reports, part of the state DCFS recommendation involved the idea that Sidney expressed her own interest in continuing to live full-time with her aunt and uncle in Virginia.