JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Court documents show a bitter custody battle between Cherish Perrywinkle's parents.

Her dad, who lives in California, says he didn't even know he had a daughter until after she was 3 years old, saying that was the reason he didn't fight for her sooner.

Local attorney Jared Snider sorted through pages and pages of court documents related to the custody battle between Billy Jarreau and Rayne Perriwinkle, the parents of 8-year-old Cherish.

Snider, who's not involved in the case, says the most important thing for him in the six-year court fight that started in 2007 is the order to, in 2009, have a child custody evaluation done.

"Most of the time the court gives it a lot of consideration," Snider said. "This streamlines the issues. This streamlines the witnesses. So in a situation where parents are at odds over the time-sharing arrangements, it gives the court something to rely on."

Snider says an evaluation typically takes four or five months. At the end of the evaluation, the recommendation of the evaluator was shared parental responsibility with the majority of time-share to be with the father in California and the father to pay for the costs of transportation for Cherish to visit her mother in Florida in the summer and at Christmas.

The evaluator added in the report, "Here, neither parent was perfect. However, as between the two, I believe Mr. Jarreau, can offer the child some semblance of normalcy and an environment where at least there is the potential for her to thrive. I fear for the child's future living with Ms. (perrywinkle)."

Snider said the fact that the recommendation of the evaluator was not followed is rare and was quite surprising to him.

Jarreau's attorney, Gerald Wilkerson, didn't provide any details on the case, but did give a statement from his client. It says, in part, that Jarreau is "grieving for the loss of his daughter and is heartbroken that the long custody battle he has been involved in has ended in tragedy. Over the past years, he has fought diligently to gain custody of Cherish because he feared for her safety in the mother's custody."

Ironically, Cherish was scheduled to fly to California this past weekend to spend time with her father. Jarreau's attorney says he was heartbroken when he woke up expecting to head to the airport to pick her up, but instead heard about her dissapearance and death.