Fight over child’s ashes ends up in Stark County court; new bill would help prevent heartache in future cases

Fight over child’s ashes ends up in Stark County court; new bill would help prevent heartache

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A fight over the ashes of a child ends up in Stark County court.

A mother says she was forced to give some of her son’s ashes to his father- a man who hadn’t been in his life for years.

19 News is investigating to see if a proposal at the state capitol could prevent this from ever happening again.

For 19 years, Holly Katusin says she parented her son Nathan without his father.

“I knew I had to fight for him, like I fought for him all his life,” she said.

She says his dad left them when Nathan was 8 months old.

Last January, the coroner came to tell Katusin that Nathan had been shot in the head and died.

In the days that followed, she had to find her ex-husband and get his permission to legally cremate Nathan.

“He signed,” she said. “He was fine with that.”

She says the day after the funeral though, her ex-husband called and demanded half her son’s ashes, insisting he had the rights to them.

“He was correct,” she said.

Katusin fought to keep all of her son’s ashes in court for nine months. Meanwhile, his ashes sat in a box at the funeral home.

“Of all the fights I’ve ever had for him, never would I think it’d be something like this,” she said.

Ultimately she had to compromise when she and her ex got sent to a mediator. The ashes were divided between her and her ex.

“I knew it would not be what my son wanted,” Katusin said.

Katusin reached out to 19 News after she saw our interview with this Akron mother last week.

Cathy Morrison went through something similar. She says amid her grief in 2016, she had to track down her daughter’s long lost father to get him to sign cremation documents.

19 News connected the two and now both are on a mission to change the law.

“I’d be thrilled to know that this didn’t happen again,” Katusin said.

A new bill would make the custodial parent at the time the child becomes an adult responsible for decision making in a cases like these.

19 News reached out to the representative sponsoring the bill about Holly's case.

Her office says this bill would not only make it so that a single parent can decide whether to cremate their child but also where to put his ashes.

“I think that’d be a wonderful thing for the next person,” Katusin said.

We’re committed to letting you know where the bill goes from here.

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