Veronica and her husband, Roger, had a daughter, Madison, together during their marriage, but when they decided to divorce in 2014, Roger got custody of Madison.
Veronica still had visiting rights, but seeing Madison got harder and harder as Roger began moving frequently: within a 3-year period, he moved to two other cities in West Virginia and one out of state. Roger’s relationships were also a point of instability, as he moved twice for one girlfriend, then moved again when he got a new girlfriend.
In 2017, Roger and her girlfriend at the time both died of drug overdoses while he was living in the same city as his parents. Madison’s grandparents immediately took her into their home and filed for emergency guardianship of Madison and told the court they had no idea where Veronica was.
Meanwhile, Veronica had no idea Roger had passed away or that Madison was with her grandparents. When she couldn’t reach Roger and hadn’t seen Madison for months, she finally got a hold of Roger’s parents and found out what had happened, but they wouldn’t agree to let her see Madison.
Veronica reached out to her local Legal Aid office and gave them as much information as she knew, and she asked a staff attorney if she had custody rights. The LAWV attorney told her that as a parent, she should have rights to her daughter, as long as there hadn’t been any abuse. Veronica assured her attorney there wasn’t; she was just interested in getting her daughter full-time since Roger had passed away.
Because they wanted to keep their granddaughter, Roger’s parents filed many allegations against Veronica, stating that she was an unfit mother. Because of this, the family court judge appointed a guardian ad litem to provide the court with an assessment of both homes. The guardian ad litem completed a brief report and recommended that Madison stay with Roger’s parents, citing Veronica’s living situation as cause—she didn’t own her home but instead lived in a home owned by a relative, among other things. They also stated that Veronica didn’t use all of her parenting time, which counted as “somewhat” abandoning Madison.
Veronica’s LAWV attorney worked hard to prove she was a good mother, invested in using her parenting time and creating a stable home for her daughter. It wasn’t an easy process, but Veronica and her attorney worked together through several hearings and appeals. Finally, after being apart for almost a year and a half after Roger’s death, Veronica was granted full custody of her daughter. Veronica and Madison are now together full-time and have worked out times to visit Roger’s parents, too.