Tina, tears running down her face, sat next to her mother in my office. Earlier that week her husband Frank had transferred their joint checking accounts into his name alone, blocked her use of the credit cards and locked her out of the family home. Then the day before, Frank took their two young children to California, threatening never to return them.
Despair wrecked every part of her being. Tina was a stay-at-home mom consumed with the care of children and daily household duties. Frank was a good provider with a steady, professional job. She trusted him. She believed their marriage would last and they would raise the kids together, happily. This drastic turn of events shook her to the core.
Tina’s mother was in full attack mode. The son-in-law she once knew as loving and calm had stolen her grandchildren, robbed her daughter of their joint money and then had the nerve to confront Grandma in a rage, yelling disparaging and ugly things about her and her family. Frank was “going to pay” for his actions. She wanted me, the attorney, and the legal system to straighten all this out with lightning strikes that would leave Frank’s head spinning and her daughter fully vindicated.
As the story unfolded, I asked Tina: Did she want what her mother wanted? Or something else? What was ultimately at stake? Mainly Tina just needed her children to be safe, with her. She also needed money so she could pay rent, buy food and care for her children.
Fortunately the law and the courts could help. We immediately filed for divorce and created a temporary parenting plan. With a parenting plan in place, the police could force the return of the children if Frank refused to give them back. The court also ordered Frank to pay support, withdrawing the money directly from his paycheck.
Then another scary thing happened. When Frank was served the divorce papers, he responded by texting Tina pictures of his bloodied wrists, threatening suicide if she didn’t reconcile. While Tina called 911 and Frank was rushed to the hospital, I worked the legal angle, getting the judge to immediately terminate Frank’s parenting time. The judge also ordered Frank to undergo a complete psychological evaluation before he could see the children unsupervised. Direct communication with Tina was prohibited and he was ordered to pay Tina’s attorney fees for his menacing, manipulative actions.
Today, Frank’s mental health is much improved. He continues to financially support Tina and the children. He is able to have regular, unsupervised visits with the children and he and Tina have limited but necessary communication focusing only on the children. Tina is a student at SOU and a finalist for a full scholarship.
Sometimes fast resolutions to scary circumstances are necessary. While involving the courts and hiring an attorney can seem unnecessary or intimidating, situations like Tina’s demand a timely legal process to calm volatile family situations.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.