To say I have an intimate knowledge of the North Carolina family court system, unfortunately, is a statement that I share with a sorrowful heart. My childhood was ridden with the yelling, crying, and physical abuse inflicted upon my mother, my older brother, and I from an abusive father. Growing up in an environment of domestic violence skewed my perception of reality and right from wrong. As a child amidst chaos, I was use to the violence. I honestly thought mental and emotional abuse, physical violence, and financial threats was normal in a home and marriage. It was not until around the age of nine that something clicked in me. I remember the evening as if it happened yesterday. Yet another fight broke out in the living room, while I watched TV in my pink-filled bedroom. Once again, my father did not like something my mother did. She had “pushed his buttons”. This time my brother attempted to deescalate the situation, and he was hit by my father. As my mother guided my brother to the bathroom with blood running from his nose, I hopped off my bed and squirmed between them to sit on the toilet seat of the bathroom. My brother’s anger and my mother’s despair apparent, I sat and observed. I didn’t shed a tear, but I wanted to be there for my brother…he was my best friend (even if he called me “tiny terror” and claimed I was his annoying younger sister). As I watched the water being poured on his face to ensure my mother could clearly see if there was an injury, something clicked in my head. All of a sudden it occurred to me, “this isn’t right”. I learned in that instance right from wrong, and that what my father had done was wrong. I didn’t know how or when things would change, but I knew then and there that my family had to get out of this dreadful situation.
Fast forward to the age of eleven, my father once again rose his hand to my mother. The fateful scream of my mother was heard two stories above while I sat in my room. I rushed down to her aid to find my father standing over her with a cast-iron beer mug. I confronted my father with the wrong he had inflicted upon my mother, and he responded by dragging me up a few flights of stairs and throwing me into a wall. I mean I should have expected it, he was three times the size of me. Regardless, I got up and went right back into the room to my mother. As I picked her up and guided her upstairs to a sink, I turned to the phone to call the police. As was her line in the past, “stop, if you do that he will be out of jail in a day and come after us…he will cut off all the money…we will be homeless.” Abiding by my mother’s wishes and concern, I proceeded to take mother to bed, take pictures of her wounds (as my Godmother told us to do during these violent incidents), and ensure that my mother never fell asleep. Our worry…if my mother fell asleep with the gaping head wound still bleeding then she may never wake up. It was literally the longest night of my life. Somehow we got through. From that day on though, things were different. The following summer, when he raised his voice again, I made the decision: I was going to leave with or without my mother. I know my mother had tried to leave before. But her priest told her to work on things, the police said they cannot do much, and our family members and friends “did not want to be involved”. Call me a rebellious child, but I didn’t care anymore. I would rather be homeless than live amidst the abuse of my father, regardless of the three-story house, fancy sports car, and money that made the neighbors enviable. My mother, who always tried to put her children first, finally decided to face the fire. At the very next incident, my mother and I escaped to a neighbor’s house, the police were called, and my father was put in jail for the night. The very next day, my mother developed the courage to file for a domestic violence protective order. With no funds, because my father had cut them off at this point as predicted, my mother found her attorney by calling any family law attorney in the Wake County area by using a physical phone book and heard for the voice of the attorney. Finally, when she heard a strong voice that instilled a sense of trust and understanding, my mother found Helen, her family law attorney. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. My mother found her attorney listening to her voice on the answering machine. Everything happens for a reason though. In the following five years, my mother and I were in and out of court to address everything that came about. I testified before the Judge at the age of twelve to bring light to the abuse in the home. And still to this day, my father is past due on his child support obligation. Therefore, when people ask how much experience do I have in the family courts, I can’t help but think, “oh, if you only knew”.
Now why with this history ridden with despair would I think I should become more involved by becoming a family law attorney myself? My reply is because I don’t think any child should go through what I went through. The court system should not be designed in a way to further victimize or encourage violence due to apathy based on technicalities. There is the law and there is life. Instead of ignoring my pains in the past, I want to use the knowledge gained to help others and create a ripple of change in the court system. I don’t care if you are a mother or a father, if you put your kids first then I am the attorney for you. I only wish I had as good a father as some of my clients are. And to confirm my ambition to become an attorney was my mom’s attorney Helen. Without her, my mother may still be in that abusive relationship. She was an inspiration to me, and now it is time to pay it forward.
When I left the Judge’s chambers at the age of twelve, I knew I could get use to this. I can honestly say, I spent a part of my childhood in a courtroom; therefore today, the courtroom does not scare me one bit. After graduating from Cary High School, I went to the George Washington University in Washington, DC. There I took a number of classes in psychology and conflict resolution, only to find that my passion was in international relations. Upon graduation from the university, I finally was able to pursue my ultimate goal: obtaining a law degree. I attended the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. Not only did this fulfill my dream of supporting my favorite college basketball team as a loyal student, but I also was able to hone my skills as an orator, writer, and legal thinker.
As a family law attorney, I help my clients navigate the legal system when their family relations and the law collide. Based on your specific story, I figure out how the law applies. Although many cases can be resolved outside of the courts with the skillful use of mediation, collaborative law, or negotiations, some cases will end up before the Judge. I am here to ensure your rights are protected both outside and inside the courtroom. And if I am able, I hope to be an inspiration to you and your family as my mother’s attorney was to me.
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