The Case of Eric

Wendy R Hernandez

Practice Area:Family

Outcome:Eric was was named the primary residential parent.

Description:When Eric’s girlfriend of five years became pregnant, he was eager to do his best to be a good parent. During Mother’s pregnancy and once the baby arrived, Eric provided financial and emotional support to both her and his son. He developed an incredible bond with his baby. However, this was not enough to keep the child’s mother satisfied, and the parties’ relationship dissolved. The couple had a history of atypical abuse. Mother was the aggressor, both physically and emotionally. She often threatened to leave the state with the child in response to unmet or unsatisfactorily fulfilled demands. Fearing he may lose his son, Eric sued Mother for joint legal custody of the child. She responded by moving out of state to California, taking the child with her. As the case progressed, Eric began to lose hope that the child would be returned to Arizona. During his first hearing with the judge, Mother was not ordered back to Arizona. Eric resigned himself to the idea that the best result he could attain by seeing the matter through was a reasonable parenting time schedule. After attempting to resolve visitation issues with Mother during a court-ordered mediation, Eric realized the legal landscape had become too difficult for him to navigate alone. When he retained us, he had all but given up his initial desire to seek more than just parenting time. The mediation had resulted in a series of agreements that, on reflection, Eric realized were not fair. The first motion filed by this office was an objection to the report generated from the mediation. As we got to know Eric, it became obvious Mother was imposing her will so as to minimize Eric’s role in his son’s life. Moreover, this young woman had a serious, well-documented history of mental instability. We did not wish to exploit Mother’s mental health, but raised the issue as it pertained to her ability to effectively co-parent the child with Eric. Although Eric shared the details of his tumultuous relationship with Mother, we did not just have to take Eric’s word for it; this young woman had done plenty to incriminate herself. Once we explained to Eric just what his options truly were and assured him that no matter what he wanted, we would do our best to help get him there, Eric decided that he wanted sole custody of his son. The next step would be to prove our case. When trial finally commenced, Eric was certain of what he wanted, and we were certain that we had amassed as much proof in Eric’s favor as was possible. As the witnesses testified, the proper presentation of evidence was crucial; we only had two hours for trial and hundreds of pages of exhibits. We showed photographs of injuries sustained by Eric during an altercation with Mother, we submitted text messages as evidence and played profane voicemails left by Mother. As Mother’s angry voice filled the courtroom, it was apparent that we had struck a chord. Upon resting our case, the Judge was ready to rule immediately. Citing both the law and several of our proffered exhibits, the Judge determined that it would be in the best interests of the child to be returned to Eric without delay. Indeed, the court determined that Eric was the party most likely to allow meaningful contact with the other parent and that Mother’s anger management and mental health issues were relevant. Though Eric sought sole legal custody, the court awarded the parties joint legal custody, advising Mother that the designation could be changed if her behavior did not improve. Eric was named the primary residential parent. Eric was in elated shock. After nearly resigning himself to the idea that his child would grow up in California with only limited contact, thwarted even more by Mother’s inflexibility, Eric could finally be a real father to him. Eric’s goal was realized as a result of the evidence presented, the manner in which it was presented, and his earnest cooperation.