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Students Secure Protection from Abuse and Custody Orders for Client

Ms. O contacted the Civil Justice Clinic after receiving a Temporary Protection from Abuse Order in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.  She was seeking representation at her October PFA hearing and help in obtaining custody of her 2 youngest children. The parties were the parents of five children, two of them being minor children whose custody was subject to the terms of the custody provision in the Temporary Protection from Abuse Order.  However, that Order instructed that one of the parties should file a custody petition prior to the PFA hearing.

Ms. O met with Colleen Maguire ’20 and Colleen interviewed her through the use of a Spanish interpreter.  Ms. O explained that she and the Defendant shared a long history, which included many years of extensive verbal abuse, harassment, threats of physical violence and physical abuse.  Colleen learned how much the client feared the Defendant and how nervous she was about testifying in Court.  Colleen strategized and researched in preparation for the hearing, while also hoping to reach an agreement with the Defendant which would provide for a final protection order for Ms. O without her needing to testify.  During this time, Colleen also drafted and filed a custody complaint on the client’s behalf and requested a certified interpreter for the PFA hearing as both parties were Spanish speaking. 

When the parties appeared at the PFA hearing, Colleen artfully explained the process to the pro se Defendant and helped the parties reach an agreement without admission in which Ms. O would maintain a protection order for 3 years, prohibiting any contact between the parties.  Later in the month, the parties met again in custody court and an extended hearing was scheduled for the court to issue a final custody order. 

Caroline Lesce ’20 represented Ms. O at her custody hearing In January.  Prior to the hearing, Caroline spent time negotiating with the parties while also preparing Ms. O to potentially testify in court, in case an agreement was not possible. Eventually, Caroline assisted the parties in coming to an agreement over the visitation schedule for their youngest child. The parties planned to arrive at their hearing date prepared to sign an agreement.

However, when the Defendant failed to appear on time for the hearing, Caroline provided the custody Master with an opening statement and testimony, through direct examination of Ms. O, that demonstrated why Ms. O should receive primary physical custody and sole legal custody of her children. Although Ms. O was nervous to testify in court, her preparation with Caroline allowed her to share her story. As a result, the custody Master awarded Ms. O primary physical custody and sole legal custody of her two minor children.