Lori* came to the Clinic by way of The Julian Center. A documented refugee, she fled the trauma and violence of her country to make a home for herself and her son in the United States. She soon met a man who became her husband and Lori believed a new, happier era was just beginning. But her husband began verbally and physically abusing her. When Lori became pregnant, the abuse only magnified. She contemplated taking her two children and leaving him, but this option was fraught. “Her husband threatened her that if she ever left and took their son, he would track her down, kill her, and kill anyone who helped her leave,” says Kelsey Raves, Clinic Victim Justice Program (VJP) Staff Attorney.
With no good option in front of her, Lori fled her home with her older child, leaving her baby behind. She believed him to be safer for the time being. Her plan was to find an attorney, to get a Protective Order, to get a divorce, and to file for custody of her infant. Lori sought refuge at The Julian Center and began living in their shelter. The Center for Victims and Human Rights (CVHR) represented Lori in her Protective Order hearing; Kelsey represented her in her divorce and in the ensuing child custody battle. Lori was hopeful that things would move swiftly, but they did not. “Her husband’s attorney kept getting [the hearings] continued over our objections,” says Kelsey. Months passed without Lori seeing her infant. She finally started getting Parenting Time, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted custody.
The continual delays did not work in her favor though. Despite the fact that the court found Lori’s testimony of abuse credible enough to issue a Protective Order, this was only part of their consideration when it came to custody. “There are all these factors that the court looks at for custody,” says Kelsey, “But, the fact is, the longer a child is with a parent, the courts are reluctant to move the child out of that home.” Kelsey started to prepare Lori for the worst. She told Lori, “We’ll ask for custody—but it’s not going to happen.” When the day of the final hearing came, however, Lori was granted custody of her baby. Kelsey was delighted at the outcome. “I told her that this wasn’t going to happen,” she says, “But God found a way for it to happen.”
Throughout the entire ordeal, Kelsey was in awe of Lori’s strength. “People can be really insensitive with the idea of a mother leaving a three-month-old behind, but it’s a lot more complicated than that,” she says. “[Lori] really didn’t have a choice. She had to save herself and her other child and hope she was going to get her baby as well. She had no idea it was going to take so long to get an attorney and get a case filed and then all these hearing dates would keep moving.”
Now, all of that is in the past, and Lori is finally able to start over again with both of her children. “She has her own apartment. She has a good job. She’s very sweet,” says Kelsey. “My hope is that she can keep building a life here with her two kids, that things can finally be safe.”
To learn more about the Victim Justice Program, please visit our website.
*Client’s name and certain details have been changed.