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“Save my Sister’s Children”

$9,855 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 79 people in 8 months
Created May 8, 2018
Joanne Blackburn
on behalf of Joanne Blackburn
My sister’s ex-husband (D) and his new wife (J) want to take her children away from her. She is fighting back and needs our help.  Here is her story..

In 2014, after almost 9 years of marriage and two beautiful children, 3 and 5 years old at the time, D and I agreed to end our marriage. We shared joint custody of the children and still do to this day.  I thought it was a mutual agreement that it just wasn’t working.  But when our separation became public, friends started to tell me the truth – D and my close friend “J” were a couple and had been for a while.  J was also married with two children the same ages as ours. This separation was part of their plan, as J soon separated from her husband as well.  They eventually married in January 2015 – before either of their divorces were finalized – when J was 4 months pregnant with their own child.

We have all heard that stay at home moms who don’t work in order to be with their children suffer the most in a divorce and lose their standard of living. It is true, and I was a living example of that.

When D moved out, he took his name off the utilities and left me with $500 in the bank. I was a stay-at-home Mom at the time with no income of my own.  That was all I would get from him for EIGHT months. 

My electricity and water were being shut off. I was scrounging for food and clothes for my children while looking for employment.  D used this situation to continue the verbal and emotional abuse and constantly criticized me for the way I fed and clothed the children (Target isn't Brooks Brothers!).  You see, he believed he was now above my social class and he was working hard to prove it.  His new fiancée, J, sent her children to elite private schools. She belonged to country clubs and rubbed elbows with the wealthy in the DC area. That was the life D had always wanted, and I was a burden on him and on his plans. So he began a specific attempt to ruin me, keep me penniless, destroy my self-esteem and, eventually, take the children from me.  I have endured this for four and a half years now.  Here are just a few examples:

 . In the summer of 2014, he enrolled the children in private schools but listed J, not me, as their mother and did not even tell the schools that I existed.  

· In August of 2014, claiming he had no money, he offered to pay $700/month for child support until the children turned 18. We would share joint custody but he got final say on school placement.  At that time, I had no choice but to accept the agreement – it was all I could do to keep my head above water and something was better than the nothing I was getting at that point. He knew I had no money for a lawyer to fight him and leveraged that against me.

· In 2015, D decided to bring me back to court, insisting I pay more than $10,000 to them for money they’d spent on having my children tested for learning disabilities (without including me). I was set up and trapped – advised that I would owe D child support based on his declared income of $80k and money he is spending to keep the children in private schools, etc.  So to avoid paying him child support – how ridiculous is that! – I agreed to drive the children myself to and from school because, as D said, “That is what mothers do.” Unable to afford a good attorney of my own, He won.

·         By the fall of 2016, I was spending more than 5 hours in the car with the kids driving them to and from the schools D selected (conveniently for him). D offered to cover my expenses to break my lease and move closer to him and his new wife, J, which would make the school commuting easier on us – although at a higher cost of living for me. Realizing this would be an improvement for the kids, I found a way and spent all my meager savings to move.  But immediately after moving, he reneged on his promise and paid nothing.

·  I’ve found a GPS device on my car and private investigators stalk my house and take pictures of me and the children through the windows.

·   D enrolls the children in activities at their country club where, if I want to attend to support my children, I am not allowed to bring in outside food or drinks and cannot purchase anything as a non-member – making all-day swim meets in the hot summer sun unpleasant to say the least.

·   D routinely sends long texts and emails that berate everything about me, my work, my education, my appearance, etc.  Here is one sordid example: “You are literally too stupid to co- parent with.”

·  D has communicated in writing that he believes our separation agreement no longer applies to him and that because I don’t earn as much money as he and J, that J now has priority over me in parenting my children!

 Today, I work part-time as a personal assistant earning less than $20k a year. Part-time, because I still spend 4+ hours per day driving the children to and from distant schools as required. In fact, He also refused to drive the children to or from my house at any time so I’m responsible for all transportation to and from D&J’s home for shared custody as well.  So, in addition to the high cost of living in this area, approximately half of the $700 per month of child support is spent on gas alone.

 Meanwhile, D&J own a business that has brought in millions of dollars, live in a $1.7M home, have four luxury cars and have a $1.2M beach house in NJ, employ nannies and housekeepers to help full-time, spend more than $100k per year on private school tuition for 3 of their children, take lavish vacations on private jets and, obviously, can afford the best attorneys money can buy.  Yet somehow, he can only afford $700 per month in child support for two children.

For the last four years, it was all I could do to keep up my strength and my determination, but I did and I am stronger now because of it. That is important since it is now 2018 and I have again been presented with a court document from him, seeking full custody of the children and filled with supporting statements that are false and an outright assault on me and my character.

 I have had it with being bullied.  I am fighting back. I have hired an attorney to counter his assault on me and I am asking for full custody this time!   The children need a normal, calm environment to live in and need to attend a school that will address all of their needs that is close to home and to neighborhood friends.  Any help you can give me for legal fees will be greatly appreciated and used 100% to fight back and resolve this issue once and for all.  My lawyer estimates that this battle will cost between $20-30k. But standing up to this bully and fighting for my children and my own rights as their Mom is worth that and so much more! It’s also worth the pain of swallowing my pride and asking for help.
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Update 6
Posted by Joanne Blackburn
1 month ago
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We won!

Today, just hours before the custody trial was set to begin, D signed our proposed order granting me sole legal custody of our children! We had an extremely persuasive case prepared and he was prohibited from offering any evidence at trial due to discovery sanctions, so I’m not surprised that he finally gave in. I’m also not surprised that he waited until, literally, the 11th hour. No matter, we got what we came for!

Next up is the hearing on January 10th to set child support and rule on the show cause motion for his failure to pay the court ordered attorney’s fees so far.

I don’t have the words to express how much this means to us. All of you… every minute, dollar and word of support and encouragement throughout this process have made this possible. I could not have done this alone.

Tonight, I will sleep better than I have in a very long time. And this year, we’ll enjoy the most wonderful and peaceful holidays together that I could possibly hope for. I truly wish the same for all of you as well… Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Joanne
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Update 5
Posted by Joanne Blackburn
2 months ago
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Well, a lot has happened in the last few weeks so I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on the case. The good news is that it’s mostly good news! So here goes…
1. In my last update, I mentioned there was a hearing scheduled for October 15th to argue the long list of objections to my requests for discovery production from D. We had that hearing and prevailed on 13 of their 15 objections! D was ordered to comply with the discovery requests and pay attorney’s fees related to that portion of discovery. Win for us!
2. At the conclusion of that hearing, D’s attorney withdrew from the case. Yes, he walked away from D and is no longer representing him. D is now handling his case “pro se”. Win for us!
3. D failed to fully comply with the consent order they signed in September where they agreed to provide discovery responses as well as the order to respond to the objected items that we won at the hearing on October 15th. So we had to file ANOTHER motion to compel and go back to court November 2nd. D didn’t show up and the judge hit him hard this time with sanctions… The judge’s order stated “The Defendant is precluded from presenting any evidence at trial”! The judge was reluctant to impose such harsh sanctions until he was reminded that D was the one who started this by filing for sole custody in the first place and now refuses to comply and play by the rules. This is huge for us as D cannot present any evidence or witnesses at trial – making it a one-sided case. HUGE win for us!
4. There was another (mandatory) pre-trial conference on Nov 5th, but after prevailing in all the previous hearings and since, once again, D didn’t show up, there wasn’t much to be done at this one. The judge was informed that at this point, D hasn’t shown up to a single hearing and didn’t respond either way to our proposed (sole-custody) settlement order – not a good impression. So, win for us!
5. We also handed over another ~300 pages of discovery documents on Monday. Mostly just updating what we previously provided and adding recent emails and text messages that reflect the ongoing lack of co-parenting and civility on a day-to-day basis. At a minimum, it’s a reminder to D that we’re still fighting and working hard on this.
The bottom-line is that I’m more confident than ever and couldn’t be more relieved and excited about how well things have (finally) gone for us! My sense is that he knows he’s lost and has given up on the case but will not make it easy by signing the documents to avoid trial – he’d rather drag it out, run up my legal expenses ($20k and climbing) and make it as difficult as he can. That’s OK, no price is too high for this and we’re still working every day to prepare for trial and present the strongest case possible. I’m not taking anything for granted and plan to keep fighting this through to the very end.
I couldn’t have made it this far without all the assistance and support from so many friends, family and caring strangers. I’ll never be able to convey how much that has mattered and what it means to me. I will forever feel the impact of your generosity and know that I will someday pay it forward!
25 days to go!
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Update 4
Posted by Joanne Blackburn
4 months ago
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Wow, what a summer!!! The kids are now back in school and doing great, all things considered. I'm also incredibly grateful to all my friends and family who have been so supportive. No words could possibly convey my appreciation. This week, it's been wonderful to have all the grandparents around the house (yes, my parents and Danny's Mom together!) :)

There has been some recent progress on the custody case...

1. In July, D stopped paying required alimony 2 months earlier than expected. Apparently, a legal document I signed a couple years ago unknowingly set this up and I'm advised it would be an expensive battle probably not worth fighting. This is why having the outstanding attorney I have today is so important - he's been fantastic! So, today I'm down to $756 per month in child support for both kids. I'm working two jobs and trying to figure out how I'm going to handle school transportation in the coming weeks. But D spent the last few weeks of the summer at their beach house... Oh, and they were driven there by his new full-time chauffeur / bodyguard. Go figure!

2. Last Friday, we had to go to court on a "Motion to Compel" filed by my attorney because D has refused to turn over any of the required discovery responses. All of which I turned over to him back in early July. One hour before the hearing, to avoid answering to the judge, his attorney agreed to a "consent order" to provide responses by Sep 21st. This seems to be a blatant effort to drag things out and run up my legal fees. I believe he thinks I won't be able to sustain the fight to the end.

3. We also have another court hearing scheduled for October 15th to argue their objections to our requests for discovery. Most of them are absurd as they've objected to our requests that are identical to the ones they sent us and I responded to. Again, just trying to drag things out and run up expenses. I have nothing to hide, but apparently he does!

The original estimates of $25-30k to fight this and keep my children with me and our extended family seem to be holding true. So far, 100% of the very generous donations have gone directly to these legal expenses and have now been exhausted. We're putting every additional penny we can towards this, but I'm not sure how we're going to be able to cover the rest. But I have no doubt that we'll figure it out somehow and everything is going to work out as it should in the end.

Again, thank you so much for everything so far and anything else to come. Please take a minute to share this if you would.
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Update 3
Posted by Joanne Blackburn
4 months ago
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This ❤️
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$9,855 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 79 people in 8 months
Created May 8, 2018
Joanne Blackburn
on behalf of Joanne Blackburn
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