Pro bono representation—Contested divorce
“My husband told me I could get a divorce the ‘easy way’ or the ‘hard way.’ The hard way was to get a lawyer, which he knew I could not afford to hire, and fight him for custody of our daughter. The easy way was to surrender my child and just walk away. InMotion showed me that I could stand up to my abuser and fight for my child.”
Danielle, an immigrant from Aruba and victim of severe financial and emotional abuse, turned to inMotion when she realized that she and her daughter were in danger of physical harm from her abusive husband. Danielle contacted inMotion to learn what steps she needed to take to end her marriage.
Recalling her first telephone conversation with our staff, Danielle states, “The attorney gave me advice. She explained the law and the issues which would most likely be involved in my divorce. She was concerned for my safety and told me about shelters where my daughter and I could seek refuge and discussed safety issues I should consider if I decided to leave.”
”She thanked me for having the courage to call,” Danielle continues, “and let me know that the doors were always open whatever it was that I decided to do. It was a tremendous relief. I knew that whatever decision I made, I would not be alone.”
Danielle told her husband that she wanted a divorce a month later. Danielle’s husband in turn told her that, if she tried to fight for custody of their daughter or for child support, he would kill her. “It will be so easy,” Danielle recalls him saying. “You are just an undocumented immigrant, no will care. You are nothing. They will take you out of this apartment in a body bag.”
Danielle immediately took her daughter and fled to a friend’s apartment. Shortly thereafter, she went to Family Court and obtained a temporary order of protection and child support order. On the same day, in a retaliatory move, her husband filed for an order of protection against Danielle and petitioned for sole custody of their child.
After appearing in court without a lawyer, Danielle was intimidated by her husband’s attorney and terrified by his threats to crush her financially if she fought for custody of their daughter. Danielle contacted inMotion for legal help.
InMotion immediately placed Danielle’s case with a team of volunteer attorneys at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Over the next two years, Ryan Kane and Juan Arteaga represented Danielle in a highly contested divorce in Supreme Court and a family offense case in Family Court which resulted in a multi-day trial.
Shortly after Ryan and Juan took on her case, Danielle and her daughter, threatened by her husband’s stalking and continuing threats of violence, moved into a domestic violence shelter. Danielle’s husband then withdrew his support of her application for legal residency and, as a result, Danielle lost her working papers and all means to support herself and her daughter.
At the family offense trial, upon hearing Danielle’s compelling testimony and other forceful evidence presented by her attorneys, the judge awarded Danielle a three-year permanent order of protection against her husband and dismissed her husband’s case.
Next, Juan and Ryan helped Danielle obtain a divorce based on the cruel and inhuman treatment of her husband. After much complex discovery, negotiation litigation and almost settlements with the husband, Danielle was awarded full custody of their daughter with visitation for the father. Danielle was also awarded a child support judgment requiring her husband to pay his rightful share of their daughter’s education, medical and child care expenses.
Danielle’s attorneys also collaborated with lawyers at Safe Horizon who helped Danielle self-petition for legal residency under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Danielle’s VAWA application was approved in August 2005 and Danielle received her work permit three months later.
Reflecting on her experiences, Danielle states, “There were many times when I felt like giving up. I wouldn’t wish going to court on my worst enemy—it is a nail biting experience—especially when you’re fighting for a child that you love. It is the hardest thing in the world to sit silently in court and listen to someone you once loved tell lies about you, tell the court you are bad mother—it just breaks your heart. But my attorneys were always there; they had my back and would not let me give up.”
“It was worth it.” Danielle continues, “I got justice and I thank inMotion for that. I was treated like a million dollar client at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. InMotion placed my case with a world-class law firm and gave me the best lawyers in the world. I have a lot of wonderful options now—things that I never realized that I could do. I’ve seen the ways in which I was limiting myself and all of that is over now.’
Danielle now has her green card and recently started a full-time job as an executive assistant at a prestigious real estate development firm. Her daughter is thriving in a new school that specializes in mathmatics and science.
Learn more about Danielle’s attorneys.
Note: All clients' names and personal details have been changed to protect their identities.
Back to top