Please be advised: This story contains accounts of abuse.
Debbie Thomas has two children: a teenage daughter from a previous marriage and an elementary-age son from a more recent relationship. Debbie separated from her son’s father, Charles, because he had been verbally abusive to both children and verbally and physically abusive to her.
After the separation, Charles repeatedly broke into her home and made threats. She sought and was granted a domestic violence protective order; however, the order stated that they share custody of their son and exchange custody at a supervised location. Despite the order, Charles kept showing up at Debbie’s home and workplace and followed her to “check on his son.” He even climbed through a bedroom window one night when no one would answer the door. The kids were so terrified at night that they wouldn’t sleep and would often miss school the next day.
Constantly living in fear was disrupting her family’s life, so Debbie visited the Lawyer in the School clinic while she was picking her son up from school. A volunteer attorney advised Debbie on how to file a contempt petition for violation of a protective order for some immediate relief. Legal Aid was also able to assign her case to a volunteer attorney to provide court representation to file for a modification of custody and child support in family court. The case has since been resolved: Charles no longer threatens the family, and last semester, Debbie’s son won an award for perfect attendance.