A mother loses a child custody battle
Are you a mother? Could you ever imagine a situation where you lose custody of your children? It happens, and here’s one true story to show you how. This is very common among our client base so please don’t think it could never happen to you. The mother in this story loses her child custody battle for a number unlikely reasons.
In the beginning
Some time ago, we were hired by “Betty” (not her real name). Betty had her two children living with her in her house and they were happy. She was divorced for over a year and was rebuilding her life with her children. The courts had awarded her primary custody of her children.
Every other weekend their dad would come and pick them up and every Wednesday night he’d take them out for dinner.
Life continued like this until the dad decided he wanted to move to another state and take the children with him.
That’s when trouble started
So, the father filed a custody modification action and accused Betty of being an alcoholic and of being a neglectful mother to her children.
The father (or his attorney) had a private investigator (not us) serve Betty with court papers. On the evening she was served, the private investigator showed up at the residence at around 9 PM. It was dark outside at this time.
When he rang the doorbell one of Betty’s younger children ran to the door to see who it might be, as children often do. Betty opened the door and when she saw it was a stranger she pushed her younger child behind her to put herself between her child and the investigator. She accepted the papers without causing any incident and the private investigator went on his way.
Betty now needed to hire an attorney and she did just that.
And the private investigator lied
Not all private investigators have the reputation Eagle has. Many are fly-by-night operations who put the almighty dollar above their reputations.
In this case, when the private investigator filed his affidavit of service he added language similar to the following,
“As Betty opened the door I observed her striking her child and pushing her up against the wall in a forceful manner. I also smelled the odor of alcohol coming from Betty”.
Betty retained an attorney but in the meantime the father filed an emergency motion to remove Betty’s children from her care!
Based on the private investigator’s affidavit the motion was granted and Betty’s children were taken away to live with their father and his new wife.
It was right about this time Betty’s attorney called Eagle.
We met with Betty and discussed her case. She adamantly denied ever striking her child. Betty was (and probably still is) a devout Christian so lying wasn’t something she was comfortable with. She also admitted to us that she had drank alcohol heavily in the past but had received counseling and help to curb that. She didn’t allow alcohol in the house and didn’t drink alcohol now. More on that later…
Our impression of Betty after several hours of discussion was that she wouldn’t have hit her children. She just didn’t have that demeanor about her. But, as any good investigator will tell you that impressions need to be backed up with facts and evidence. And as experienced private investigators we know that some people can be very convincing. So it was time to get some proof.
Working with Betty and her attorney we decided on a plan to document Betty’s interactions with her kids. She loved her kids and her kids loved her. Both Betty and her attorney were sure that this evidence along with Betty’s sobriety would prevail.
So we video taped Betty with her kids when they were at school functions and sporting functions. (Their father would not allow Betty any access to her children other than at those times).
We taped hours and hours of her with her kids. We video taped them laughing together. We video taped them discussing school and sports and on every occasion it was clear the children loved their mother and Betty loved them. After reviewing the hours of high definition video we obtained we concluded Betty had been telling the truth.
In terms of evidence gathering there wasn’t much else we could do. Her ex and his wife both had clean criminal histories. They were gainfully employed and lived in a nice house. Getting “dirt” on them was going to be impossible.
How Betty lost her kids
And so it came time for court and Betty and her attorney lined up her witnesses and her ex-husband lined up his.
Betty brought her sponsor from AA who testified that she had been sober. She brought neighbors, friends, relatives who all testified about what a good mother she was and that they’d never seen Betty strikes them in any way. Witness after witness stood up and vouched for Betty.
We testified and showed our video evidence and testified about what we saw.
The ex-husband’s attorney called Betty to the stand to testify.
He asked her about her alcohol use. He harped on it. He asked her about her church and religious beliefs.
Betty stated she didn’t go to church anymore.
Betty stated she’d had to leave her church because of her alcohol use/abuse.
The judge in this case ruled in favor of the father and awarded the father custody of the child. The father moved out of state and took the children with him.
A judge’s bias
The judge in this matter absolutely hated the idea of alcohol. It was and is a well known fact about this judge that if you are shown to be a drinker of alcohol there’s a good likelihood that you will lose your case. Regardless of the evidence you have in your favor.
The judge in this case was also a devout church-goer. For him to hear she no longer attended church was enough for him to be sure he didn’t like her.
Because Betty had let alcohol rule a portion of her life the judge instantly took a dislike to her and took her kids away from her.
Is this fair?
Not in this case and maybe not in any case. But life isn’t fair. The choices Betty had made in her life came back to haunt her. She was a good person now but she couldn’t hide or shake loose the mistakes of her past. Her past coupled with the lies of a rogue private investigator meant she now has to travel out of state to visit her children.
There’s an old saying among lawyers: “The law is in the jaw of the judge”. Judges are humans and they have likes and dislikes.
Think about someone you met for the first time and did not like for whatever reason. Maybe you didn’t like how they spoke. Maybe you didn’t like how they dressed. Maybe you didn’t like them because you heard something about them.
Judges are people first and judges second. They try to be impartial but it’s impossible. They have likes and dislikes just the same as you do.
This is not an unusual scenario. Your past can and will be dragged from the cobwebs and used as evidence against you.
Private Investigator Tips for you
– Think about your actions and how they might be used one day against you in court
– Remember that judge’s are humans too. It is your job to impress the judge. It is your job to dress in a way that will impress the judge. It is your job to talk and act like you want to impress the judge.
– When the doorbell rings you never know who is on the other side of the door. Think about that before you open it.