Feb. 6, 2017 DALLAS — Within several weeks of taking on the case of a mother who reported that she was repeatedly abused by her husband, LASSA attorneys Daniel Van Sant and Lauren Johnson negotiated a key favorable decision in Tarrant County family court.
Their client, who has two young children, was at risk of losing custody of her toddler to her husband; he is father to her younger child, and he asked for full custody in his petition for divorce. Van Sant says that tactic — striking first — is common among abusive spouses. “Often, money can become a form of control,” he said. “The abuser will take control of the finances. They figure that if they file divorce, the spouse won’t be able to afford to hire an attorney.”
In this case, though, the victim, who had fled her husband and taken refuge in a woman’s shelter, could turn to TRLA representation. On Jan. 3, Van Sant and Johnson filed the client’s petition for divorce and for full custody and child support from her former husband. In subsequent negotiations with opposing counsel, the two attorneys’ extensive research gave them the upper hand, and they got what Lauren described as a “significant and unpredictable victory. We didn’t think we would be able to find common ground.”
The family court issued temporary orders that give Van Sant and Johnson’s client primary custody, with “safe visitation,” in which the client will not come into contact with her former husband. The order is key, because in the context of family court, as long as temporary orders appear to be working, they are often “rubber stamped” as permanent orders, Johnson said.
The case is expected to be resolved within the next several months. “I’m glad that we were able to empower our client on her day in court, “ Johnson said.
“It’s extremely gratifying to be able to help this woman, who has already suffered too much,” Van Sant said.