Organized by: Jorgiana Fallon
On Christmas day, December 25th, 2013, my 21-month old daughter was kidnapped by my estranged boyfriend without rational cause. He kept her from me, wouldn't allow me to see her, nor speak to her until I finally filed a protective order against him one month later. At that time, due in part to my own lack of an attorney and my unfamiliarity with legal process, the judge ordered joint visitation between us (though my ex had never before had any form of legal custody). However, more has since been clarified and revealed, and my daughter and I continue to be abused by this man. I am a young (19-year old mother), unsophisticated in how to defend my rights, and the rights of my daughter ... But I believe I am now on the right track. I need an attorney. Please read the following ... Please help us.
Note of Interest: Prior to late 2013 my ex-boyfriend refused to provide any consistent child support for our daughter, rarely interacted with her, regularly claimed she wasn't his own (consistently referring to me in untruthful and degrading language), refused paternity testing, and continually abused me through online media (social networks). Face-to-face, he was also verbally abusive and psychologically controlling the entire time. With this in mind, please consider the events of late-2013, up to this date.
Chain of Events
Antecedent to the Kidnapping
In December, 2013, my ex told me he wanted to claim our daughter on his tax return. He made this demand, notwithstanding the fact that I had been her sole caregiver for the majority of her life, including 2013. He, nonetheless demanded that I provide him with her Social Security Number. When I refused, he set in motion a nightmare.
Stolen on Christmas Morning
On December 25th, 2013, I agreed to allow Avery to spend time with her father. However, when he picked her up and I again refused to provide him wiht her Social Security Number, he erupted in a fit of rage, and told me I would not see her again until I provided him with it. He drove away with her, and I didn't see or speak with her again for a month. He kept her without any legal right, with no accusation against me made to the authorities, and reasserted his demand repeatedly, including via text messaging, that unless I provide him with her Social Security Number, he would not allow me to see her again.
A Month of Hell
The following weeks were complete hell. I discovered that although my ex wasn't even on my daughter's birth certificate (because at the time he was denying paternity); and even though he had never paid child support; and even though he hadn't visited or communicated with her more than a couple of brief moments during the first 18 months of her life, my acknowledgement that he was her biological father resulted in my inability to get her back without a court order.
And the legal irony continues. Because there had never been a custodial decision made by a judge, my ex was able to get away with behavior that would be otherwise labeled as "custodial interference" (which is a state, and potentially a federal crime). Divorcees would never have to worry about such a thing. Yet an abusive man who had previously refused all parental responsibility was able to get away with behavior that would put an ex-spouse in jail, and possibly prison. I was told more than once, when trying repeatedly to get the police to help me retrieve my daughter that "possession is 9/10ths of the law."
He kidnapped my daughter without any legal cause or complaint. He kept us from seeing or speaking with one another with absolutely no justification. He was not motivated by her well-being, but rather by his own financial status, as indicated by both his SSN demands, and compounded by the fact that he never made legal complaints against me regarding my parenting.
His Petition for Sole Custody. In January, 2014 my ex submitted a petition for sole custody of my daughter. As stated previously, this petition made no accusations against me. Yet he portrayed the petition as a final decision by which I must abide. He claimed that by law I was required to both accept, and to sign the petition. Luckily I spoke with others about the petition, and I began to learn my rights.
My Response to the Petition. I responded to the petition, outlining absolute proof of a string of abusive behaviors, as well as the kidnapping incident, and demanded full custody, without visitation. When I submitted my response I also submitted a request for an emergency protective order, asking the judge to have the police obtain my daughter and return her to my care.
I Held Her Again. Within hours the judge, having reviewed my response, as well as my request for a protective order, arranged to have me accompany the police to the home of my ex. For the first time in a month I saw and held my daughter.
Beyond Hell, A Nightmare
But the nightmare, which I thought was beginning to end, had only just begun.
In order to establish the relevancy of a protective order the case must be made in court, especially if it is challenged by the accused. When I showed up to court my ex had an attorney, and I had none. I did not realize at the time that notwithstanding all of the evidence, and all of the behavior that initially motivated a judge to return my daughter to my care, I was still responsible for making a verbal case for the protective order in court.
I Failed to Make My Case. I am not good at speaking. I get flustered. Honestly, I freeze up. I didn't cite anything contained in my response, nor even in the petition for the protective order, and I stood there, trying to claim that my daughter was simply better off with me. The judge looked at me incredulously. Those who were supporting me watched helplessly. The attorney destroyed me.
Not only was the protective order not granted, but custodial visitation was ordered. From that day forward my ex and I have shared custody, one week on, one week off.
The New and Enforced Mommy. My ex has required my daughter to start calling his current girlfriend "mommy." When my daughter is with me, and I refer to his girlfriend by her name, my daughter's eyes widen, and she exclaims, "No! Her name is mommy!" My daughter cries and begs to not go with them at the end of each week, and clings to me to keep her. Yet when they drop her off to me, and she squirms to get to me, the girlfriend embraces her, refusing to initially let her go, kissing her all over her face, and both she and my ex tell her that her "real mommy" will miss her.
Although I believe this behavior is meant to harm me, my heart breaks as I see what is happening to my daughter.
Seeking an Attorney
So I took all of this to a very competent, very successful law firm. When they reviewed the entire case (including the substantial evidence I have provided) they said that they were absolutely positive they could take everything to court, and that there was virtually no chance I would lose. They made it clear that based upon the evidence they would have no concern facing any opposing attorney in court.
... Finally, a light ... And then, more darkness ...
This attorney has said that I would need to make a down-payment of $5,000 for them to take the case to court, and that additional fees would apply as necessary. Initially I thought this was extreme. However, upon consulting other attorneys, their fees were similar, and every one of them said that the first attorney is both known for winning cases such as this AND is actually offering a "good deal" to take me on at the rate quoted.
While I have been perplexed about saving up for the case, the boldness of my ex has increased. He mocks me in front of my daughter, makes outrageous claims against me in social media (which is reported to me by others), and acts as if I have no means to fight back.
Well ... I'm fighting back ... But one last thing has now occurred.
A Toddler's Separation Trauma
My daughter has begun exhibiting separation anxiety. If I walk out of the room or leave the house, she cries and begs me not to go. Whenever she has spent time at my sister's home (while I work) she repeatedly stands at the door and asks, "where is my mommy?" She no longer sleeps in her own bed. Even if I initially get her down alone, she finds me in the middle of the night crying to be next to me. Then, when the day comes for me to drop her off she digresses into complete distress, crying and begging me not to leave her.
I suppose I am traumatized also. But, as difficult as it is, I am able to rationalize what is going on. She is not so capable.
I suppose that I am interested in more than an attorney. I want to obtain expert opinion from a child psychologist on the issue. I have video footage of the psychological trauma my daughter is enduring at the hands (and voices) of my ex and his girlfriend. I want to go to court with a reliable attorney, to present everything (much of which is not written here), from my ex's abuse against me and his daughter, to the expert-supported impact of that abuse upon Avery.
My ex wanted nothing to do with my daughter for the first 18 months of her life. He gained interest when he got a new girlfriend, and they started considering the impact of claiming her on their tax returns. My daughter began seeing more of him (which I initially thought was good for her) ... Then the financial value of a child's life came into play ... Then he took her ... And now I am at war with a monster.
I'm Struggling ... Help Me
I am trying not to break down as I am fast-tracked into a legal learning curve, and am facing the need for money, merely to afford the right to defend her, and to assert my rights as a mother.
The following will occur through ongoing professional services:
My Final Steps. My final steps will take place, hopefully with your assistance, though with understandable delay:
1) As quickly as I can secure the services of a child psychologist, I will have my daughter, this situation, and all of the evidence evaluated and provided to my attorney.
2) I will sell whatever I have to, will campaign as much as I need to, and will beg and borrow in any way necessary to get enough money to employ an attorney to bring this issue to a justified close in my favor, and in the favor of my daughter's life and safety.
Please help me to save Avery. Support this campaign.