Lovefraud.com recently heard from a woman in Illinois, who we’ll call Mary. Mary is trying to protect herself and her eight-year-old daughter from her ex-boyfriend, the daughter’s father, who has guns and has threatened to use them. Not only is Mary fighting the ex, but she’s fighting lawyers—both hers and his—and an unresponsive family court.
Mary left the ex for good in 2001, when their daughter was three. The guy has an alcohol problem and a 20-year arrest record. He has five arrests for DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) and 14 DWLR arrests (driving while license revoked). He has two arrests for domestic battery. Two different women have sought protection orders against him, including Mary.
In July, 2004, after three years of seeing his daughter sporadically at best, the ex decides he wants to be an involved parent. Coming from a wealthy family, he can afford to initiate a lawsuit and hauls Mary into court to get visitation rights. Mary works full time, but as a single mom, struggles to support her child. She can’t afford the best lawyers money can buy, and she doesn’t qualify for public assistance.
Arrest and conviction
Now, prior to filing his petition for parental rights, the ex was arrested for DUI and DWLR in February, 2004. He gets arrested two more times, in July and November, 2004, for DWLR. So on November 15, 2004, family court awards him supervised visitation rights. Eight days later the ex beats up his current girlfriend. She gets a protection order against him. Then in December he goes to jail for the DUI conviction. He serves 90 days of an 18-month sentence and is released on parole.
All of this happens while he is petitioning the court for his parental rights. The court appoints a clinical psychologist to evaluate both parents and the child. After 20 hours of interviews and evaluation over four months, the psychologist reports that the ex has a history of alcohol abuse and is vulnerable to relapses. He recommends that visitation continue to be supervised, and that the father complete an intensive substance abuse treatment program before overnight visitation is allowed.
Mary’s days in court
On November 15, 2005, Mary is back in court with the ex. Her legal counsel is less than stellar. Mary’s lawyer refuses to subpoena the woman who filed a protection order against the father. Mary talks the woman into showing up in court anyway, but Mary’s lawyer never calls her as a witness. And, Mary’s lawyer never asks the psychologist any questions related to the ex’s violence.
After a six-day trial, the judge rules. In giving his decisions, the judge notes that the ex’s alcohol dependency has not been resolved, and that the man’s mother and stepfather both believe he still has an alcohol problem. The judge notes that the ex has a tendency to disobey court orders. Yet he says the psychologist’s recommendation of no unsupervised visits until after the father completes a chemical dependency treatment program is an unwarranted restriction of his right to visitation. The judge rules that there is no risk to the child, apart from the alcohol issue, and awards the ex unsupervised visitation. He orders the father not to drink alcohol during visitation or for 24 hours before visitation.
Threats of violence
Two days later, the ex calls Mary and tells her he still has his handgun and that he would be a better parent if Mary were no longer around. Mary interprets this as a threat on her life, and asks her lawyer to get an order of protection against the ex. Her lawyer refuses.
The ex continues his threatening and abusive behavior. By February 8, 2006, Mary has had enough. With the help of a family advocate, she gets a protection order on her own. A different judge hears her case.
In the meantime, the ex’s lawyers file a petition to reconsider the parental rights decisions. They want the ex to have unsupervised overnight visitation immediately upon completing a substance abuse program, without an additional court hearing. And, they want his support payments to be reduced, arguing that he really doesn’t get any income from his two trust funds.
On February 16, five days after being served with the order of protection, the ex follows Mary as she drives home from work. Mary photographs him in his car with her cell phone camera and calls the police. The ex is arrested again for DWLR and charged with a criminal felony.
Mary is nervous about testifying against her ex in the felony case. Here’s what the police officer says to Mary: “I have his record in front of me and I can tell you from experience that he is capable of killing you whether you are a witness to this case or not. You need to make a choice to stand up for yourself or let him keep coming after you.”
Back in court
The ex’s lawyers ask the court to combine the protection order hearing with the parental rights case. So on March 1, Mary is back before the family court judge about the protection order. She no longer has a lawyer, so she tries to represent herself. Her ex has two legal teams, who claim that the man has never harassed her. The judge refuses to admit any of Mary’s evidence and vacates the emergency order of protection. The judge further orders that Mary and her ex communicate in a non-abusive and non-harassing manner, and that the father is entitled to telephone visitation daily with his daughter from 7 to 7:30 p.m.
Mary begs the judge to allow her to communicate with her ex only by e-mail. The judge refuses, stating that all communication must be by telephone.
Last week the ex harasses Mary over the phone again. She gets another order of protection.
The next day Mary is back in court in response to her ex’s motion to reconsider the rulings on his parental rights. Although she contacted 43 attorneys, none will take her case, so she is there alone. The judge postpones the hearing, but tells her that if she doesn’t have an attorney on the next trial date, Mary will have to represent herself.
On March 23, 2006, the ex’s home is searched by his parole officer and a representative of the sheriff’s department. They find guns and drugs. He is thrown in jail again.
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“It took a long time for me to really understand that he is as dangerous as he is,” Mary says. “I have always been someone who believed all people had some good. I don’t believe that anymore. No matter what I do (try to help him or speak out against him—I have done both), his only goal was to manipulate me and keep me from achieving success of any kind in any aspect of my life. If he does kill me I am not taking his secrets with me.”
Now that’s courage.
Mary still needs to respond to her ex’s demands for visitation rights. Her goal is to keep her daughter safe. If you know an Illinois attorney who can win her case, please contact Lovefraud.