Helping Three Girls

Last year when I started this GFM, I promised when I was able to provide a clearer picture of the situation, I would do so. 

In late 2019 my friend, A fled her marital home with her daughter, S.  In an act of pure selflessness, A's ex-husband's first ex-wife, M, dropped everything to take A to a shelter due to A's lack of valid driver's license and immigration status.  Then COVID hit.

A lived with S in this shelter for over a year, dealing with two legal battles – one, for dissolution of marriage, and the other to secure residency in the US under VAWA.  During this time due to COVID A and S were very limited in how often and when they could leave the shelter.  They shared a space roughly the size of a dorm room where they spent most of their time, outside of limited outdoor play time, walks to a local outdoor play area, and occasional visits with M and her two daughters (S's half sisters, L and J) after confirmation of 2-week quarantines.

It became apparent in the first few months that the free aide attorney appointed to A, while earnest in his efforts, did not have the time or years of family law expertise that would be needed for a case as complex as A's.  A was not able to work while she was in the US, both during her marriage and after leaving, due to her residency status – something that was held over her as a threat for years.  Her aunt back in Canada provided the funding for A to purchase a retainer at an excellent family law firm, and that case was transferred.

At the end of 2020 we had a moment of relief – A and her ex-husband reached a custody agreement that would allow A to return to Canada with primary physical custody of S.  Her ex-husband would retain partial custody in the US and additional visitation time in Canada, something A was supportive of in wanting S and her father to have a continuing relationship.

But the custody agreement was not the end, and A's actual dissolution of marriage hearings did not take place until 2021 due to severe backups in the court system as a result of COVID.  In the first hearing in the beginning half of 2021, only a portion of the massive case file was able to be presented and a second date was set, but not until the third quarter of 2021, the earliest available date with the severe court system backlog.

During this time A was only receiving $350 a month in child support for S.  Her ex-husband did assist with her moving expenses but A incurred significant cost repairing her vehicle, which she could now drive again.  Upon returning to her late mother's home in Canada, A found that the tenant who had been living there while A was in the US significantly damaged the property and major repairs would be needed very quickly for S to have a healthy and safe home…and a room of her own for the first time in over a year.

On top of this, A's retainer was nearing exhaustion.  A and her aunt took out a loan to cover emergency repairs to the home (most of which A performed herself to control costs), necessary but less urgent home repairs A could perform herself but needed materials to complete, living expenses, and payments on ongoing legal costs.  Over much of 2021 Canada has still been under significant lockdown and while A has done what work from home freelancing she could over the year, childcare allowing her to work a more regular job outside of the home has been unaffordable with what income and support she did have.

Then, on November 8th, the dissolution of marriage judgement was finally delivered, almost two years after A originally left.  A was granted approximately 1/5 of the marital estate and 2.5 years of alimony, to provide her time to complete her education and gain enough work experience to support herself and S following a significant work gap incurred while she was in the US.  The sum was enough to pay off the loan A and her aunt took for A and S to survive through 2021 and provide a cushion for A to afford childcare to she could return to school and the workforce.
However, on November 9th, A received the news from her attorney that her ex-husband had unexpectedly and suddenly passed away.  A and M had the task of delivering the devastating news to their daughters while themselves dealing with the shock of the news.

With this loss, the cold practicalities of life bear a significant weight on A and M.  A had originally been awarded attorneys fees, but those could now be coming back to her – eroding the remaining assets she was granted – we do not yet know.  Further, both A and M will no longer be getting child support, and while Social Security death benefits should be available for the three daughters, they will take time to arrange and do not continue after the girls' 18th birthdays, leaving their mothers as the sole providers for their higher education costs.

While our original goal was to modestly cover A's legal costs, the circumstances have now drastically shifted.  We are seeking to set up small nest eggs to care for the children's immediate living expenses until Social Security death benefits are available, costs for their therapy and medical expenses (which had previously been covered in part by A and M's ex-husband), and set aside money for post high school education (be it college, trade school, or skilled apprenticeship).  The target we're setting is $30k, $10k per child.

The outpouring of support for A and M has been a beacon of light in what has been an overwhelming week capping off a dark period in everyone's lives.  I cannot begin to express the gratitude A and M have for everyone's generosity.  In particular I want to recognize the supporters who have stood by through my vague and infrequent updates, I know it was a huge leap of faith and it means the world you took it.

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Update to clarify some important details given the size this GFM has reached:

Originally when this funding drive was smaller in scale the plan was for the dispersal to transfer to me and from there I would wire funds directly to A and M, evenly split for each child.  However, given the significant growth in size from everyone's amazing generosity I am in the process of hiring an attorney to set up and manage a trust.

What does this mean for dispersal?  Money will stay put until the trust is ready, after which point I will transfer it out and immediately fund the trust.  While the exact terms of the trust are pending, what I have discussed with A and M thus far is an even division of funds for each child with a large sum of each allocation set for dispersal after the age of 18 and a smaller portion of each allocation set to pay out to A and M on a monthly basis per child.  This will ensure A and M have adequate resources now for the care and support of their children as well as provide funds for education expenses of each girl after they complete high school.

Appropriate documentation of the trust (redacted as necessary for privacy) will be shared as an update once the details are better established.
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Donations 

  • Anonymous
    • $10 
    • 10 mos
  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 1 yr
  • Tancredi Selvaggio
    • $10 
    • 1 yr
  • Fernando Ramirez
    • $5 
    • 1 yr
  • Leah Norris
    • $50 
    • 2 yrs
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Organizer

Jessi S.
Organizer
Glen Allen, VA

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