Allison,” who had gone to a local Domestic Violence Shelter to escape her abusive husband, needed help with a serious custody issue. Her husband had threatened to smash their 3-year-old child’s television with a crowbar and had physically abused Allison. He left Vermont with the child, filed an out-of-state divorce, and refused to allow Allison to visit their child. Lacking legal resources, Allison contacted Have Justice—Will Travel (HJWT), one of the legal aid organizations supported by the Vermont Bar Foundation.
Successful First Steps
Acting quickly, HJWT assisted Allison in filing a Relief From Abuse Complaint and obtaining a Temporary Order awarding her custody under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. HJWT then helped Allison file for divorce in Vermont, and requested that the venue be transferred from the other state to Vermont. Since the parties had lived in Vermont most of their relationship, and the child had many ties to the state, the other state approved the transfer.
A Need for More Support
During hearings, the father insisted that he had never been abusive and that Allison had been neglectful in her care of their child. With the help of HJWT, Allison prevailed. The Court found the father’s assertions baseless. It also expressed serious concern about his continued denials of abuse, given that the Relief From Abuse hearing had substantiated Allison’s claims. The Court determined that the father’s failure to take responsibility for his actions warranted a limitation of his contact with his child until he could show he had taken remedial action.
A Family Reunited
Reunited with her child and free from her former husband’s abuse, Allison expressed gratitude to the Court and to HJWT for recognizing the seriousness of the situation and believing her story. With the help of HJWT, Allison now had full legal custody of her daughter, and the father’s contact was limited by court order.