Child Taken Away from Father

Updated on October 14, 2009
K.L. asks from Bothell, WA
9 answers

A few days ago I posted a request regarding my sister in law who fled to NY with her 3 year old son and left my brother in a deep pain. We are in our first steps to file a claim so my brother can get custody to the child but I can already sense that the lawyer we have found is taking things slowly and doesn’t seem to be the most knowledgeable or to give much hope. I was wondering if anyone has any names of a good lawyer who is not very expensive. It seems that this part is really important!

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answers from Seattle on

I see you are in Snohomish. I recommend Wayne Pellegrini in Marysville. I worked with him several years ago. Very good to work with!

Wayne Pellegrini
Third Street Law
Marysville, WA

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answers from Seattle on

K., you have already gotten a few good suggestions.

I would throw in a word of caution as well: Unless you have reason to believe that your brother is incompetent to stand up for his child, you should probably back down and just be supportive instead of panicking. You brothers lawyer may or may not be slow to get things started, your brother may be satisfied with his advice. Your requests are pretty vague, please consider that your brother may not give you all of the information that he is given, this is after all a private matter between your brother and his wife and you should not expect to get every detail.

Do some research (like you are doing here), contact some law firms, get quotes and give these resources to your brother, but let him make whatever decision he makes with the legal adviser he chooses.

I don't want to offend you, but I have seen in my own family, how well meaning family members have gotten way too involved and blown a divorce way out of proportion, so that an amicable relationship, for the well being of the child, was impossible afterwards.
You write that "We are" in the process of filing, but it really should be "He is", again, this is between your brother and his wife, it is about their child. I commend you for supporting him, just remember that it will be most helpful if you do so in a reasonable rather than emotional way.

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answers from Portland on

This is so sad for the whole family but especially for your nephew.

I wonder if you know the process for your brother to obtain custody? It is a long one. I don't know what you mean by your brother's lawyer taking things slowly. I do know that if custody can somehow be worked out without court involvement everyone concerned, but especially the child, will be better off. Once paper is filed in court it is highly unlikely that the mother will be willing to work on a compromise and highly likely that she will retain a lawyer and fight vigorously to keep her son from his father. She may even contest visits. Also the court process, from the time paper work is filed until a resolution is reached is apt to take a year or longer. The fact that she is now living out of state makes the process even more difficult. Do you know if the attorney is wanting to give the situation time for both parents to cool off and become more rational?

Because his wife and child are now living in NY enforcement of a court order to return the boy to his father will be very difficult once it is obtained. So, let's say the attorney files for your brother to have custody next week. The case is heard in court in 1-2 months, the judge does issue an order requiring that your brother have custody and the order is served on his wife in New York. The state of Washington has no authority in New York. How does your brother get physical custody of his son? I don't know. I've been involved in the service of out of state papers and I can tell you that the process is slow and difficult as well as different from state to state depending on the form of the order, the court from which it's sent, and the laws of the state to which it is sent as well as being complicated by the procedures of the local jurisdiction.

If I were your brother's attorney, I would recommend that he wait before taking legal action and work on rebuilding communication with his wife. Once he takes legal action he will have further alienated his wife and reduced the possibility of co-operation. He has set in motion a long custody battle that could take years and thus increase the length of time before he once more sees his son.

It is possible that your brother's lawyer is not knowledgeable at this point. Having the son located in a different state clear across the United States is most likely a situation with which he's never had to deal. And I understand his inability to give much hope because there is not much hope that your brother and his son will be reunited any time soon. Using the legal process makes that hope even darker.

Understanding and patience gives your brother the greatest chance at hope. I recommend that he begin intensive counseling and that he find a support group of other fathers who have lost their families. He will need to deal with his grief and make major changes in the way that he relates to his wife if he wishes to repair his life and regain contact with his son. I know that this is hard to hear and even harder too achieve. I base this opinion on many years of personal and professional experience.

Your brother and his family can focus on finding just the right lawyer to fix this situation or he can focus on healing the pain and rebuilding a relationship while holding legal action in reserve. Yes, talk with an attorney, follow his recommendations if he's had experience with divorce in this sort of situation, but don't depend on the law to get your nephew back. The situation is more psychological and social than legal especially when the mother is now living across the country.

There are law offices in Portland that focus on mediation and I would recommend such an office if his wife had remained in the area. I don't know if there is a way to get mediation by long distance but I'd look for that possibility.

I wish your brother well. I wish especially for his son that this situation is handled with as much compassion from both sides as possible. Compassion would be my first goal. If both parents can learn compassion the rest will fall into place.

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answers from Seattle on

Lawyers are expensive! It's going to be important that he gets a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the type of case he has. It's important that he can feel comfortable with his lawyers capabilities, as it may be the only peace he has for a while. We have some law firms in our building here in everett. One group on our floor just recently took her entire staff to a luncheon/seminar type thing that specialized in children cases. O'loane Nunn Law Group, PLLC. They specialise in matrimonial/family law. GREAT group of hardworking passionate women. I have no idea what their cost is, but check them out. The worst thing you can do is stay with a lawyer just because he's affordable, in this type of case, getting someone whose more than knowledgeable about your specific case, can change the turn out for the rest of your brothers life. My heart goes out to your family,.. good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Based on your two posts, it's still not clear as to why she left the state with your nephew. However, if she wasn't in danger and your nephew wasn't in danger (from your brother) in any way. It sounds like parental kidnapping took place. Your brother should've followed a police report right away and contacted a lawyer immediately. He needs to be documenting everything down in chronological order. He needs to make sure that when he talks to her that he does not make any threats and only talks politely, no matter how she gets over the phone. A lawyer will not be cheap. Especially in this matter. It may take a long time to get it resolved, it all depends on how much she fights it. My husband has been in and out of court three times now since him and his ex-wife seperated & divorced. The first go round was for the original divorce and that didn't take as long, due to the fact that my husband pretty much gave her everything she wanted (which was a mistake on his part). The second time.. Well, that took us three years to resolve. And.. after that three years and over $10,000 later. The kids were still with their mother and she moved them to AL with her new husband. Even though all their family was here in WA and they lived here all their life. The third time was just recently. We found a different lawyer that had a lot of experience and had been practicing law in our courts here for a long time. The retainer cost us a bit more this time, but it was worth it. Sometimes there are situations that require you to have to pay out more, if you want really good results. I suggest that your brother or you (if you are willing to do it for him) do a lot of research for family lawyers in your area and about father's/Dad's rights. Check out this lawyers website: It may help you guys get started. You can also look at Have your brother follow the advise that the lawyer and sites give and things will hopefully work out for him. Good luck!



answers from Portland on

A good lawyer is never cheap.

I am not sure where you are in the US.

I recommend at least placing a call to the oldest and most established family law firm in Portland, Oregon:
Gevurtz and Menashe
Ask for attorney Robin Wright.

Maybe she can help you, or direct you.





answers from Seattle on

I don't know where you are but have you tried J Michael Gallagher in Monroe, WA. I have never met him or anything but he advertises his practice as being all about helping dads keep their rights and kids. Might be worth a call.

Satellite Office
1203 West Main Street
Monroe, Washington
Phone ###-###-####

Good Luck,



answers from Portland on

K.- All I can say is get a lawyer who is going to get the ball rolling asap no matter what the cost! And here's why:

My sister who is an amazing mother had a baby at 18. She's 26 now. Since she had Noah she has worked her butt off for a very large coffee corporation in the hopes of moving up to Seattle to work for corporate. While she was working those shifts that started out at 3 or 4 am she was having our mother (Noah's grandmother) watch him overnights. One day when my sister got off work early and went to pick him up from the gym daycare where our mother was working out the gym personnel didn't release him because my sister wasn't listed as the mother or emergency contact. This raised suspiscion with my sister. She found out that at the elementary school she also was no longer listed as parent or emergency contact. When she confronted our mother she acted really strange and insinuated (sp) that she had custody of Noah. Sure enough, my sister went to the courthouse and found that months prior my mom had attained full custody of Noah by FORGING both my sisters and the biological fathers signitures stating they were givin up all parental rights. My sister immediatly got a lawyer, and confronted my mom about this. Two days later our ENTIRE family was served with restraining orders to stay away Noah and our mother on the basis that we were plotting to kidnap him. Our mother claimed that on the day Noah was born he went home with her and her husband and have lived with them ever since.
Well that was 2 1/2 years ago and my sister is still fighting to get her son back because a) she could only afford a so-so lawyer and b) she didn't just sweep in there and take her son back because she was afraid of the courts thinking she was kidnapping her own son!
She has spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees, forensic handwriting experts, councilors, child psychologists, etc.
My moms attorney is supposedly the best most expensive attorney in Clark County and he manages to get every court date postponed, including the the trial date pushed back 4 times! One time they even came up with a settlement to ensure the grandparents would get visitation rights which my sister agreed to just so we could avoid trial. But before they could go back to court to finalize everything my mom and her lawyer decided they wanted some things changed and now here we are again waiting for either a trial or a settlement.

At this point Noah HAS IN FACT been in grandmothers care for over 2 years so even though my sister is the biological parent of the child, the courts look at who the child has spent the most time with and the wellfare of the child. If I was your brother I would first off get the lawyer to demand the child be returned back to OR/WA or wherever right away so he has no time away from child.



answers from Anchorage on

If they have not filed for divorce in the state in which your brother lives, have him immediately file and ask for custody and have to be ex-wife served in NY. If can't now file in your state then file immediately in NY via NY lawyer and ask for custody. If not married, file for custody using NY lawyer in NY; very few lawyers can practice in multiple states and I could be wrong but jurisdiction belongs to where the child is resident, meaning, if now living in NY then case has to be filed in NY even if dad is living in WA & mom is in Massachusetts.

I could be wrong, but call a NY lawyer and ask. You can use an online service (not recommended) or call the American Bar Association in NY - be prepared to be spoken to quickly and rudely, it's just their style - not meant to be taken that way, but they DO get the job done. Follow up fast and file for custody quickly whereever it turns out that you can do so, ask for temporary restraining order and for temporary custody while case is being heard, i.e., waiting to be heard. Temp restraining order should get a hearing within days.

No much chance for success if mom has always had primary custodial care, but if dad was the daycare provider and nightime hand holder then it's more likely. Good luck!

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