Courting Justice for Familie$
Organized by: Carol Gorenberg
When I decided to become a lawyer, my goal was to represent children in the justice system. I soon found out that the jobs I wanted were few and low-paying. (I couldn’t support myself, much less pay back my student loans!) Now that I am a successful family law attorney, I am believe in pro bono work, and I do my best to provide legal services to deserving clients who may not be able to afford the high cost of effective representation. But often there are other services my low fee and pro bono clients need that I can't provide: psychological evaluations and counseling, court reporter fees, travel costs to see their children who are living far away with the other parent. (It's so frustrating to get a "good" court order and then the client can't raise the funds to make it happen.) So often, I see children caught in the middle, suffering from their parents' conflicts.
I'm asking you to help these deserving dads and moms who find themselves in pitched battles over their children, by giving what you can to help them get services they desperately need.
Here’s how it works: Your donation will go into a special “holding account” with our law practice. When one of these needs come up, we will carefully screen the case to make sure that our client has no other source of funds available, and that paying for these costs will really advance their cause. A holiday visit, a child custody evaluation by an excellent psychologist, a deposition of a grandparent who has woven a web of lies about our client, all require payment of out-of-pocket costs. We’ll draw on this fund to pay these expenses.
RIGHT NOW, OUR MOST PRESSING NEED is funds to pay a psychologist to do testing and testify in a particularly difficult child custody case. The children, pre-teen girls, are being torn up by their parents fighting over them. Unless we get this testing and expert testimony, it will continue to be a “he-said, she-said” situation and could go on for years, until one parent or the other gives up, or until the children become very angry teenagers, maybe even juvenile delinquents or teen mothers. I believe we can prevent this, with YOUR financial help.
Help us put on our Mighty Mouse cape, to save the day for this family (and others like them)!
YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL PAY FOR THINGS LIKE: Court fees and transcripts, psychological evaluations, counseling for children and parents, expert witness fees, and travel costs for the children when the parents live far apart. My time and my staff's time will continue to be donated or discounted, as we have done for the past ten years. Here are some examples of the cases I have in progress or have recently completed. (Names and details are changed to protect the privacy of my clients.).
1. Grandparents (Who Shouldn’t Be) Parenting Again. You've read the stories of the heroic grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their own children are involved in drugs or criminal activities. But did you know there are some grandparents who have taken their grandchildren away from fit parents for their own selfish or misguided reasons? Our office has represented a number of young parents who have fought their own parents or their in-laws to get back custody of their children, when these grandparents have obtained guardianship of the children on false pretenses. In one case, a little girl’s father was in prison, and his parents desperately wanted to have a grandchild, but they were not on speaking turns with his former girlfriend, mother of their granddaughter. So they accused her of drug abuse and got their local court to give them guardianship of the little girl, supposedly to “protect” the child from her mother. Because they cleverly used the court system and the young mother was too busy working and struggling to support her daughter, she couldn’t get a lawyer to defend herself. They were appointed guardians and had the police remove the child from her mother! Over a period of 9 months, we were able to get the guardianship terminated and the mother’s rights restored. This took more than 8 court hearings and many expensive, time-consuming procedures, and would have cost a paying client more than $30,000. The psych eval cost over $9,000, and the travel costs associated with it another $2,000.
2. Abuse is in the eye of the victim. Three children who feared their mother had been unable to prove that they were traumatized by their mother's behavior, because everything looked fine to the outside world. They ran away to live with their aunt, but she didn't have the legal right to care for them. We were able to help her gather the evidence needed to prove to the court that the children were not safe with their mother, and that even though her abuse was not physical, it was causing them long-term psychological damage. We engaged the assistance of a mental health expert, gathered evidence from the children’s schools, and were able to establish a guardianship with the aunt. The case took numerous hearings and the testimony of experts, and would have cost the aunt over $50,000 in legal fees and psychological services. (We donated over $30,000 of legal services.)
3. Mental health parity is a long way away. Under the new Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) the goal is to establish equivalent levels of care for mental health as for physical health. This admirable goal may become a reality some day, but for now, it is only a dream. Children with emotional problems may never get the help they need, and can grow up to become criminals, drug abusers, and wreak violence on their communities. We’ve seen tragic examples of this in twisted minds of the murderers at Sandy Hook elementary school, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and too many other places. There is a growing awareness that signs of mental illness were there years earlier, sometimes as a result of childhood trauma or abuse. Prolonged custody disputes with an angry parent can wreak havoc on some children's minds and personalities. When there are signs a child’s behavioral problems could be helped before they grow up to be the isolated, angry, destructive people who may go into a mall or a school or a school with loaded weapons and destroy the lives of innocent victims and their families, there are no funds to pay for early intervention. In our practice, we can do the legal work to call the court’s attention to the problem and get court orders for intervention, but we can’t fund the diagnosis and treatment that will be needed to try to turn these children’s lives around. The schools they need may cost as much as $10,000/month, and are simply out of reach for people who are already struggling to get by. YOUR CONTRIBUTION will enable us to help these families and get the kids the help they need, before it’s too late.
4. Leaving on a Jet Plane…. When a parent decides to move across the country or across the state, the courts can't prevent them from moving. But they can decide who gets the children! The Family Court will make the difficult decision as to which parent will be entitled to have the children during the school year and when the other parent and the children will get to visit. I’ve handled many of these cases, and the difficulties are only just beginning when the Court makes the decision about where and with whom the child will live. Even if the parent had money ar the outset of the case, they can be flat broke by the time a court order is entered, and then the will have to pay half of the child’s airfare. If the travel is to take place during school holidays, near Thanksgiving or Christmas, expensive tickets are simply out-of-reach. We hope to help these deserving parents with a portion of the cost of the air travel, so they can see their kids on the dates that have been designated by the court.
Please give what you can. I'll make sure it goes to help a deserving family!
How much, you ask? The minimum donation is $10, and the maximum is, well, the sky’s the limit! If 10 people give a small amount, it will fly a child to see a parent at Christmas. Donations of $500 or more will go toward badly needed psych evals that run $6,000 or more.
Thank you for your generous contribution, from the bottom of my heart, and from the people you will help!