In June of 2019, I moved to Washington state from Pennsylvania with my daughter and my husband for job opportunities and because our family needed a change. From that time until May of 2020, my daughter visited with my mom who lived in Pennsylvania around five times. She visited Pennsylvania in November and my mom visited her a few other times in Washington.
In May of 2020, all of that changed. During the pandemic, my mom told me she was having a surgery that she was worried would not end well and that she wanted to see my daughter for a few weeks before it. As the virus risk seemed to be declining, we allowed my daughter to travel to Pennsylvania for what was supposed to be a 3-week visit.
When the time came for my daughter to come home, the first week of June, my mom decided that she was not going to bring my daughter home.
When I mentioned that I was going to reach out to Pennsylvania law enforcement, my mom filed falsified emergency custody documents in Pennsylvania. Because of the accusations, the judge granted my mom custody until an emergency hearing could be set. My mom had been having trouble adjusting to our move for the past year, and I believe this was a result of her lack of being able to accept that we weren’t moving back to Pennsylvania...ever.
I immediately retained an attorney and began trying to figure out how to get my daughter back.
The hearing was not set until the end of August. It was then moved until the second week of September.
During those four months, I had nearly no contact with my daughter. We texted a few times and talked on FaceTime twice. I was not able to see her at all. We had never been apart for this long. In that time, I worked with my attorney to build a case and find out if it could be moved to Washington — where we had resided for nearly a year before my daughter was not returned to me.
Because of Pennsylvania law, there was no way to move it to Washington where it belonged. In the meantime, my mom filed another motion — one that was not an emergency one.
On September 14, we finally had the emergency hearing by Zoom. It was a nearly-eight hour hearing. The judge asked us to come back two days later for his decision. He determined that there was no evidence for an emergency and dropped the emergency order. I was elated. My husband and I received the news at 9:00 AM and were on a plane to Pennsylvania at 1:00 PM. We picked my daughter up that night and have now been back home for almost two weeks. We are helping her adjust to being back home while also figuring out how to cope with this traumatic experience.
Aside from how emotionally draining this experience has been, it has devastated me financially. I am not a wealthy person and was just getting “on my feet” thanks to our move to Washington.
We have now paid over 9,000 dollars to the attorney and on expenses associated with the case and have exhausted all of our resources. I currently need to pay the attorney for the past 2 months of representation which is $1,600 and $7,500 and to continue retaining her at $5,000. I will also need to retain an attorney in Washington at $2,500. My attorney will not be able to keep representing me if I don’t make another retainer payment, and because of the logistics and distance, I do not have a good chance of winning without an attorney. All money received will be used only for attorney fees and will be paid directly to my attorney’s firm in Pennsylvania, Abom & Kutulakis.
At this point, anything including just a share of my story helps.
- Michael Skupnick
- Alice Skupnick
- Lezlee Clanin
- Sherry Lesina
- Karen Christopher