Case Excerpts

Our mothers often have active cases before courts. To protect their privacy, we do not share names or photographs of families we help.

Simple and Complex Cases

  • A mother suffered repeated abuse and violence at the hands of her husband, who broke her back eventually. The trial court awarded sole physical and legal custody of their young daughter to her but the father appealed and continues to file motions to undermine its decision. On her behalf, The Custody Project helped her set up an interest-free payment plan of less than $100 per month toward the appellate costs due, directed her to obtain her trial transcripts though another agency for free, and sent a grant in her name to her attorney toward upcoming hearings and associated costs for her case on appeal. When this mother requested aid so that she could continue to protect her daughter, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • The Custody Project assisted a mother whose little girl remains in harm's way daily. A few years ago, this youngster began disclosing sexual abuse to her mother, therapist, doctors, and other professionals when on unsupervised visitation with her father. After two years of repeated investigations, findings, and court motions, the judge, ignoring testimony, reports, and the best interests of the child, ruled to remove custody from the mother, in whose care their daughter is safe and protected. Now, at six, she was recently placed in the custody of her father and the mother's time was substantially reduced to limited visitation contact. Having both exhausted their savings and retirement funds, the mother continues to spend every available dollar defending her daughter, as does the child's maternal grandmother. Owing thousands to her trial attorney, the mother pays him monthly. The Custody Project spoke with her attorney about an affordable payment plan at no interest, which was agreeable, and made plans to send funds towards legal expenses but he decided to carry her pro bono and refused to accept the grant. Her attorney also negotiated with an appellate attorney to appeal her case without cost. It is hoped that through their combined litigation efforts, this child will be protected eventually, the case remanded, and the orders appropriately modified by the trial court judge below. As the outstanding attorney fees, ongoing court fees, expert witness expenses, transcripts, depositions, loss of income due to closing her business, and the costs of an interstate move to remain near her daugther have created continuing and severe shortfalls for her family as she builds her business anew, when the mother requested her grant be re-directed towards rent to ensure the family stability as they re-settle, The Custody Project responded.
  • Back to top
  • TCP helped a mother with de facto primary custody of two children. When the parents of the youngest daughter separated, the father insisted the mother and two girls move out of the home. The 3 sought refuge with the maternal grandmother. For several months, they remained with her until the mother could afford an apartment approximately 10 miles away from the house the father remained in. She enrolled the girls in the public school nearby but the father of the youngest insisted his daughter attent the school 10 miles away and nearest him. This created a hardship upon the mother as the two schools were in different districts, ran on different schedules, had differing beginning and ending school hours, and differing holiday schedules. These conflicts compelled the mother to drop off the eldest daughter 40 minutes before school so that the youngest could be driven 10 miles further and arrive timely. As the eldest was released earliest, the cycle repeated similarly in the afternoons, with the family completing a 20-mile round-trip drive up to 3 times weekly. For a school age child, the schedule was impractical and stressful, forcing her to be on the road 1.5 - 2 hours per affected school day, and undermined her ability to do well with her studies. Additionally, the youngest did not like being away from her mother and sister, wanted to attend school with her sister and enjoy her nearby school-age and neighborhood friends but, instead, experienced the strain of removal from her family, unnecessary travel every week to a different school, and getting up earlier but having less time to study and to play. Because the visitation schedule doubled the time in the morning and afternoon that the mother was unable to work, her work window was reduced to 10 am - 1 pm, as the eldest completed her schooling by 1:30 pm. The mother pursued self-employment to create an income unaffected by court dates and the time demands the visitation schedule imposed, and she makes a meager income. When she hired an attorney to request the visitation schedule be modified, she requested every other weekend for the father so the two girls could attend the same school, be on the same schedule, have more time together, and so the youngest would have more time to study, be with her family and friends, sign up for extracurricular activities, and so the mother would have more time to work. The mother depleted her savings to cover her rental security deposit and her bills, and to hire the attorney to request the court modify the visitation schedule to one more practical for a school-age child. Having borrowed from her mother, family, friends, and organizations, and used all her savings, when she requested help to pay her attorney, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • A mother, who had been the custodial parent of her son since conception found that, when the father moved to a different county, their son would need his visitation schedule modified to keep in contact with his father. There was otherwise no change in circumstances. However, her son was ripped from her one school morning and removed to the father's county where custody was inexplicably transferred to the father, and the mother given a visitation schedule by the father's judge, who appears to have been biased. Since then, her son has suffered educationally, medically, emotionally, and physically, and the mother has struggled for years to protect him, exhausting her funds again and again. When she requested help to keep her family stable, she received a TCP grant toward her attorney bill and her mortgage.
  • Back to top
  • After years in an abusive marriage endured only under threat of endangerment to her two young children, a mother began the divorce process once she and her sons, now safely grown, had moved out of the family domicile. Incurring legal fees for research, processing, filings, and for attorney representation for motions even while her ex, breaking into her home, stalked, harassed, and threatened her, she proceeded. Her meager income insufficient, she used all her savings and overextended herself on credit cards, incurring penalties and interest. When she requested assistance to pay her legal fees, The Custody Project applied her grant to pay down an attorney's bill, requesting that $400 in interest due be forgiven. The attorney agreed, with the proviso that the mother pay $50/month minimum. The new agreement resulted in a $900 savings to the mother as reflected on a subsequent billing statement from the attorney, and the mother expects to have the attorney paid off within six months or less.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother with primary custody sent her son on visitation, he was kidnapped by his father and forced to live with him. When the mother appealed for help to enforce the filed order, the illegal snatch was sanctioned by the judge and, now, her son must spend his time in another county. Since then, the little boy has suffered emotionally, medically, scholastically, and psychologically, and his custody and best interests remain in jeopardy. The mother has appeared in pro per and used all available monies to hire attorneys to help her resolve the custody, visitation, health, and child support issues, but many of these attempts have resulted in failure, incompetent representation, and in sanctions levied upon her by the court - which may be a partial and biased one. Fortunately, she found a young, passionate attorney who asked a small retainer and an affordable payment of her each month. Together, they went in to court on a motion to protect her son, and once again, the court levied sanctions upon her. Eventually, she declared bankruptcy, divesting herself of thousands of dollars of santions the court had imposed, and that the court knew she did not have the money to pay. She and her attorney continue to untangle the child support, medical, and visitation issues regardless, in preparation for the next steps to protect her little boy. With her finances excessively stretched by legal expenses, and unable to pay many of her basic necessities, when she requested assistance with attorney fees and common necessities, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • The Custody Project received calls throughout the country regarding help with kidnapping this year (2012-2013). Typically, with a court order in place, the mother sent her child(ren) for visitation and they were not returned. When she went to court to have the order enforced, custody was reversed for no apparent reason, leaving the mother frantically facing an uphill and costly battle to retrieve her children, and sometimes traveling vast distances just to see them. Another nationwide set of calls dealt with domestic violence and endangerment of children where the mother, trying to protect herself and her family, made little headway in the courts, if not suffering an outright refusal to assist. A third set, often interwoven within these two, comprised those mothers who, receiving no child support, requested help because they no longer had the funds to support their children, whether due to job layoffs or serious illness, such as cancer diagnoses. Instead of receiving healthy child support awards when most needed, the other parent, refusing to help, filed for full custody or disappeared. Whether the parents lived in the same state, or in different states or countries, these events trended in-state, out-of-state, and out-of-country, and it is hoped that our funding will dramatically increase so that TCP can better assist these hapless families in need. Out of compassion, several attorneys stepped up and, in acknowledgment of the difficulties these mothers face, took cases, requiring small retainers and small payments per month without interest. And, to these attorneys, thank you. For such a family, part of the protection a mother can invoke is to contact the police and the district attorney(s), to communicate effectively, and to educate herself regarding the law. For many, this has helped. (See our site's Services: Tips/Testimonials).
  • Back to top
  • When a working mother with primary custody of a four-year old began the diligent search for work after being laid off, she found herself unable to afford the common necessities of life, due to the cost of simultaneously protecting her son in extensive/expensive custody litigation spanning several years against a much wealthier ex. Petitioning the court for child support, that order has been inexplicably pending for months. Applying for unemployment, payments were delayed when an accusation surfaced from an incredible source that she was working and deceiving the unemployment agency: the issue met with resolution when necessary proofs were produced. With no monies from child support or unemployment, her situation became grim. Then, without her consent, her son was removed from his school within her jurisdiction and unilaterally forced by the father to begin school in the father's county of residence. She obtained a private loan and hired an attorney to represent her on the custody issues in an ex parte but, without filing a letter or motion, the attorney claimed he exhausted several thousand dollars and would require more before he moved to protect her son. When she applied to The Custody Project for funds to cover additional legal expenses, proof showing that the attorney had been given payment for her case was requested, before a check would be issued to recompense or further him on this mother's behalf. Unfortunately, never having received it, the mother could not offer a written proof on the attorney's letterhead. And, although the attorney acknowledged verbal receipt of funds for her case and indicated the proof was forthcoming, after several weeks he submitted nothing in writing to TCP, either. (Eventually, a copy of the receipt written on the attorney's letterhead was ironically produced by the lender). This mother has tried to find another attorney in the county where her son is being forced to attend school but they require substantial retainers of $10,000 - $20,000, now far beyond her insignificant means, and her son's custody and best interests remain dangling in jeopardy. To meet their immediate needs, however, the mother requested funds in the alternative to cover common necessities to keep the family stable, and The Custody Project assisted. Her prayer is that an attorney will step in sliding scale or pro bono to help her, and that additional grant monies from The Custody Project may be applied to her case over time.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother of two young children sought to maintain primary custody and move to provide a better life for her sons, she incurred necessary trial and appellate attorney fees far beyond her means. When she requested assistance for attorney fees, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • A working mother with two children faced eviction when she experienced an unexpected layoff. While still paying monthly bills, including for ongoing medications not covered by their health plans, and with no child support for her youngest, she applied for disability, which she qualified for, and for other work she hoped she could do. Since approval for disability takes time, their situation was precarious without funds. She realized her economic straits required she file before the court to renew restraining orders against the father of the youngest, and to move to an affordable area where she could raise her family on her own. When she requested help covering her rent so that she could keep her family stable while her case approached the court, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a working mother of three divorced, she received a generous alimony and child support award from the court, which the father refused to pay. Although she approached the court for help, by switching jobs, the father hid his income and assets. Without his funds, she was without recourse and began slipping deeper and deeper in debt until her savings were exhausted, her credit was a disaster, and she found herself unable to afford their present apartment and meet monthly common necessities for her family. Two of her children became of age, self-supporting, and moved out. Relying on her single income, she sought an affordable one-bedroom apartment for herself and her youngest daughter. The move required almost $3000 to cover first, last, and the security deposit. When she requested help, The Custody Project paid several bills so that she could leverage her upcoming paychecks to meet the first month's rent and the security deposit. To keep her 16-year-old stable until she would turn 18, the mother signed a two-year lease, and negotiated a payment plan to pay the last month's rent over several months. To ensure the family's stability and safety, TCP assisted with a portion of the rental expense, also.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother of two young children sought to maintain primary custody, she incurred necessary and significant legal and expert fees far beyond her means. When she requested assistance for common necessities and to pay a domestic violence expert who submitted a report and testimony in her defense, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a working mother with custody of her three teenagers was ordered by her judge to pay fees to obtain her portion of mutual funds and stocks during the division of property subsequent to the divorce decree, she was unable to. Although it would benefit her and her children, her small monthly salary covers only required expenses, including bills she is already in arrears on, and she could not extend herself further. When she requested help covering this required legal expense, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother of two young children became the victim of a beating by the father of her youngest, she realized she would have to carry all monthly expenses herself and seek a stay-away order from the courts. Working part-time, she faced an immediate shortfall for all necessities. When she went to get gas for the car and pay school lunches, she discovered the father had not deposited her money, leaving her and their children without funds. She requested monies for gas and emergency car repairs so she could maintain her job, continue to bring the children to and from school each day, and start looking for more work. The family had relied heavily upon the father's income and the mother will not receive child support until the court makes orders. Her income, on its own, is insufficient. The Custody Project granted her requests.
  • Back to top
  • When a five-year old daughter disclosed being physically and sexually abused by her father, mandated reporters and family members came to her defense. At the custody hearing, it was revealed that the father has a long history of abuse of women and children. Even his seventeen-year old daughter from a previous marriage came forward and testified that her father had physically and sexually abused her, too, when she was between 4 and 6 years old. Yet, despite the evidence presented, the judge jeopardized this little girl's health, safety, welfare and best interests, awarding sole physical custody to her father and - irresponsibly claiming the mother was engaging in parental alienation - supervised visitation to the mother. Currently appealing the trial court and seeking a modification of custody and visitation in pro per, this mother has fallen behind financially. When she requested help covering her car registration, supervised visitation costs so that she can see her daughter, and trial witness fees, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a working mother won custody of her three teenagers, there remained the division of property to resolve. At a time of declining home values and foreclosures, the mother made full mortgage payments on the home in which she and her children lived for over a year. However, during the property hearings, a different judge stepped in and, giving no settlement to the mother, inexplicably awarded the home and its entire value to the father. Forced to move her family almost immediately, she was faced with instant costs for rent and the security deposit. Relying upon insufficient child support and her single income, she fell short. When she requested help covering a required attorney expense and a portion of her upcoming rent, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother of four teenagers faced a divorce, the economic domino struck. Relying only upon her single income, and faced with legal expenses and no child support, she quickly fell short and could not pay her mortgage, utilities, and other bills. When she applied to The Custody Project, grant payments towards her mortgage, heating, and water bills helped stabilize the household while they awaited court proceedings.
  • Back to top
  • When her son disclosed being beaten and abused by his father during their visitation, his mother contacted CPS (Child Protective Services) and the police for protection for her eight-year old boy. However, the father petitioned the court for emergency custody the next day and, providing no evidence, claimed the beating had come from the mother. Instead of maintaining the stability and safety of his relationship with his mom, his custodial parent of eight years, and honoring this child's best interests by implementing supervised visits with his father, the judge flipped custody to the father, remanding her son to further beatings and ongoing harm, and reduced the mother to a one-hour supervised visit per week. To reverse this decision and protect her son, now over 10 years of age, the mother had to file several legal briefs, some with the help of attorneys. When she requested grant monies to help cover supervisor costs and her rent, The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When her son, at age two, disclosed being sexually abused by his father, this mother immediately contacted the police and CPS. Repeated disclosures by her son over the next two years, when on court-ordered visits with his father, sparked repeated contacts with the police, CPS, and the courts. Unfortunately, the judgment of the court resulted in this child, at age four, being taken from his mother's custody, remanded to the custody of his father, and the mother given weekend visitations. Her son continues to be abused and this mother continues to seek protections for him. When she requested help with legal expenses, The Custody Project assisted her.
  • Back to top
  • A working mother of five, escaping domestic violence and kidnapping attempts upon her children, took refuge in a shelter and applied for a restraining order. Required to remain in the shelter and unable to commute, she lost her job awaiting the restraining order hearing, scheduled several weeks out. Without income, and with no child support for three of her children, she was unable to cover her monthly rent and utility bills and fell into arrears. When child support and custody issues arose, requiring court fees and costs be met, she incurred these legal fees as well. Upon leaving the shelter and obtaining a new job, this mother could not immediately cover her common necessities for her five children, and applied to TCP for assistance with her rent, water, electricity, and court expenses. The Custody Project assisted her by dividing its grant so that payments were made to help cover the four bills
  • Back to top
  • A working mother of two exhausted her resources while meeting the common necessities of life, legal expenses, and those necessary to move to a location with affordable homes and a better quality of life for her children. When she needed help with her utilities and rent payment, The Custody Project gave a helping hand.
  • Back to top
  • The Custody Project assisted another mother whose son was in need of specialized physical therapy equipment which had been donated to us. She received a one-time Reciprocal Stepper donation to assist her son in strengthening his muscles, to help him to walk and to better meet his own needs.
  • Back to top
  • The Custody Project assisted another mother who, in need to specialized physical therapy equipment, received a one-time Liftwalker donation, which assists her in strengthening her muscles and helps her to better meet the needs of her young children.
  • Back to top
  • A working mother exhausted her resources valiantly struggling to raise her four children while carrying the difficult burdens and expenses of repeated, time-consuming child support and family law proceedings in pro per for years. When she needed help with her mortgage, legal expenses, and life's common necessities including food and utilities, The Custody Project gave her a helping hand.
  • Back to top
  • TCP assisted a mother who, receiving no child support, needed help with her rent when an unexpected employment layoff jeopardized her child's stability and their financial security.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother, defending the custody of her children, needed financial assistance to pay her attorney, TCP responded.
  • Back to top
  • When a struggling, working mother, receiving no child support but with full custody of her four children subsequent to lengthy court proceedings, needed help with her rent, TCP assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When another mother was required by the court to meet specific financial obligations to ensure and preserve custody, The Custody Project gave.
  • Back to top
  • When another mother, to meet employment and court obligations, requested financial assistance for inoperative car repairs so that she could safeguard her job, ensure her family's welfare, and attend court hearings regarding custody, visitation, and child support, TCP responded.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother with a restricted income and full custody of her sons was unable to meet medical obligations due to lack of transportation, TCP's grant enabled her to buy an old but serviceable car so that she could meet the medical needs of her family.
  • Back to top
  • Another mother, requesting custody to her and supervised visitation for her child, obtained this through her court. However, depleted funds prevented her from paying necessary bills. The Custody Project assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a single mother of two needed help purchasing a car seat for her son, obtaining required seat belt repairs for her car and warm winter clothing for her children, The Custody Project responded.
  • Back to top
  • When a four-year old's father died suddenly, his mother faced an unexpected shortfall. Child support, half dental and medical paid monthly by his dad were gone. His mother needed help covering their basic food expenses and TCP assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a penniless mom suddenly moved out of a domestic violence environment with her three sons, TCP provided needed funds for school clothing, supplies, and food.
  • Back to top
  • When another mother with insufficient child support found that her employment check could not cover her utility and childcare expenses, and she and her girls faced cutoffs, TCP assisted.
  • Back to top
  • When a mother needed help handicapping her home so that, while continuing to care for her children, she could recover from major surgery, TCP provided funds. At the same time, this mom successfully defended custody legally.
  • Back to top
  • When another mother, striving to keep her two young boys warm in the dead of winter, could not pay her heating bill, TCP gave. Her lack of funds for utilities was due to the high cost of successfully defending custody legally.
  • Back to top
  • Funds were provided to another who, beaten, raped, and hospitalized, could not work and faced full utility cut-offs and eviction. Custody was preserved while she healed and her bills were paid with TCP's help.
  • Back to top
  • Most cases are difficult but some mothers are embroiled in complex situations where excerpts barely, or will not, do justice as the following cases illustrate:
  • Back to top
  • A New Mexico mother with custody found her son, without warning, suddenly ripped from her by a California court. California had awarded custody to the father without the mother present or even informed of the hearing. The Custody Project assisted with some of the ensuing legal expenses necessary to regain her son.
  • Back to top
  • A California mother's young son was torn from her overnight without warning after they legally moved 40-50 miles so that she could accept work providing independent income, a good home and education for her son, and ongoing visitation to the father. The father had obtained custody immediately in a California court, without the mother present or informed of the hearing. The Custody Project assisted with some of the legal expenses required for her to regain custody.
  • Back to top
  • These last cases are given because they, too, are representative of the agony and the plight of mothers The Custody Project helps:
  • Back to top
  • TCP assisted a mother who, unreasonably denied visitation or custody of her child, stated, "I have been unable to see my son for two years now. I owe tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees still…"
  • Back to top
  • Below follow thoughts from a mother who needed to move to provide well for her children. To do so required the lifting of her children's legal restraining orders which were causing them to live in unnecessary and extreme poverty. "To provide well for my children we should move, yet they are restrained by legal orders and we live in poverty as a result."
  • Back to top
  • Genuflection is dedicated to mothers everywhere. It was written by a mom who successfully resisted eleven legal attempts by her ex, who attempted to take custody from her and failed every time.
  • Back to top

Financials: Paying it Down

  • The next few provide detailed insight and illustrate the ongoing dilemma mothers face who carry the burden of paying court expenses for years:
  • A single mother of three was awarded physical custody when her children were 1, 3, and 4 years old. The bill amounted to $27,500 [1997-1998 fees]. The attorney had charged $200 per hour. The mother used all her savings to come up with the first $4500 retainer. She bartered several assets and borrowed from her family, and was able to give her attorney an additional $5750. With $17,250 still due, she makes payments of $200/month which will continue for more than 7 years. The lawyer agreed not to charge interest on the balance. This mother works 40 hours per week, commutes at least an hour a day, makes $7.00 per hour as a grocery clerk and grosses $280 per week (roughly $240/week net). The rent on the apartment is $550/month; if she is careful, the grocery bill is $300/month. If she is economical, her utilities and monthly family needs are about $250/month, and the cheapest car insurance she could find is $42/month. She has weekends off. But the kids visit with their father on alternate weekends. When they are gone on visitation, this mother works those Friday evenings, and on Saturdays and Sundays in a department store to make ends meet. She and the children are crowded into a cramped two-bedroom apartment. Each day for the next seven years she will be forced to deny her three growing children all but the barest necessities so that she can faithfully repay her attorney and court fees. The $17,250 she will divert from her family to the attorney actually is needed for a down payment for a home, a more reliable car, clothing, desperately needed educational materials, regular health care including needed orthodontics, miscellaneous and emergency expenses, car repairs, better car insurance, and their extracurricular activities and college educations. This mother receives $300 per month child support and she does use it to buy the children some of their necessities. And, it's true that at Christmas and on their birthdays, her extended family always remember to send a bit of money for the kids. But relief on two days out of the year per child can only stretch so far.
  • Back to top
  • Another mother was a high-school diploma housewife and mother. After 7 years of marriage, she and her husband divorced, when her daughter was three years old. The proceedings cost her $7000, which she borrowed from her parents, and she repays them $225 monthly. The mother was awarded physical custody but a year later she was served additional custody papers. Her ex-husband wanted custody of their daughter, now four. After a second round of court proceedings spanning a year, this mother lost custody of her five year old daughter simply because she could not come up with the $5000 she needed to retain a competent lawyer to represent her in court. She represented herself and was confused by the law, legal procedures, technicalities, and legal jargon but even doing so, her expenses were $3000, obtained through extended family, whom she repays at $100 per month. Her ex-husband hired a $300 per hour attorney and the mother did not know how to compete to retain custody of her beloved child. Her daughter was devastated to be taken from her mother and has since gone from a laughing and loving child to one who is frightened and distrustful. The mother, now paying child support, continues to visit her daughter every other weekend and her daughter asks when she can come home and live with her mother again.
  • Back to top