Trigger warning: Sexual Assault
Samantha used to be married to Ryan, and the couple had two children together. Ryan’s alcoholism and erratic behavior meant two things: he couldn’t hold down a job, and Samantha was terrified of him. Both Samantha and Ryan were young and had built a life together, including recently purchasing a new car, so Samantha worried that leaving would make her situation even harder.
Things changed last year when Ryan raped and beat Samantha then threatened to kill himself while holding a gun to his head. Samantha turned to Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) for help, and they were able to get her a domestic violence protective order against Ryan and file for divorce. The challenges were not over that simply, however.
Ryan refused to cooperate with court orders and followed Samantha and her LAWV paralegal, often shouting at them. During the divorce proceedings, Ryan was on home confinement, and he stayed with—and abused—his mother during that time. He also refused to help pay for the new car they had purchased and went a step further: he called the car lender and told them where to find the car so they could repossess it.
At the final hearing, Samantha was awarded primary residential parenting with sole decision-making—a big victory for the right parent! Ryan was devastated that he was only awarded monitored visits, along with responsibility for equitable payments for cell phone and car loan bills. The court found Ryan in contempt, so he was unable to file for modification without proving he had his alcoholism under control and steady employment.
Ryan responded to the results by binge-drinking, which led to tragic events. The next night, police responded to a call from Ryan’s mother’s home: he had stabbed his stepfather to death then held his mother at gunpoint. Ryan is now in prison and away from Samantha and the children. Unfortunately, this ending was far from happy, but thankfully, justice was awarded, and Samantha’s family is safe again.