Cahill Associate Fights for Mother and Her Special-Needs Child

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Cahill associate Margaret Barone for her dedicated representation of Laura, a mother with a special-needs child, who escaped the abuse of her partner after being pressured into leaving her professional career in her home country.

Jamie Stinson is an associate in the Special Matters and Investigations practice in the New York office of King & Spalding. She is also a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council and Co-Chair of this year’s Above and Beyond Pro Bono Awards and Benefit.



At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring Cahill associate Margaret Barone for her dedicated and compassionate representation of “Laura,” a mother with a special-needs child, who escaped her abusive partner after he pressured her into leaving behind her professional career in her home country—making her financially dependent on him. Through Margaret’s tireless efforts, Laura won court-ordered enforcement of critical provisions of her post-divorce agreements, allowing her to provide the support and care that her son so desperately needed.

Isolated by an Abuser

Laura had a thriving career in Mexico before being tricked into moving to the United States by her abuser.  Subject to abuse and the loss of her economic freedom, Laura struggled to provide for herself and her son, who has special needs.  Through a long and hard-fought legal process, in part with prior assistance from Sanctuary, Laura finalized her divorce, and procured a custody agreement as well as a financial settlement.

Various issues related to the agreements arose.  Laura is the primary custodial parent, but shares joint legal custody with her ex-husband.  Laura is a fierce advocate for her son to receive better services through the Board of Education to meet his complex needs but her ex-husband was effectively blocking her efforts and failed to participate in parent coordination meetings as required by the custody agreement.  In addition, he missed many deadlines on financial obligations and deliberately misinterpreted the financial agreement so as to deprive Laura and her son of support that he was required to pay.

Enforcing Her Client’s Rights

When Margaret took over the case, she dove head first into addressing the myriad issues related to both Laura’s rights under the custody and financial agreements, as well as those related to addressing the needs of Laura’s son.  The stakes were clear as emotions ran high in Margaret’s first meeting with Laura, who explained that all of this work was in service of fighting for her child. Recalling the meeting, Margaret said, “It makes you want to do everything you can as quickly as possible.”

Margaret worked closely with Sanctuary’s Director of the Matrimonial and Economic Justice Project, Amanda Norejko, in order to formulate next steps. Margaret drafted an extensive, several-inches-thick motion and memorandum of law (totaling 51 pages) to help Laura enforce her agreement in Manhattan Supreme Court. This motion required in-depth analysis of evaluations by medical and educational experts to show how the abuser’s obstruction impacted their special needs child.  In the course of organizing more than thirty motion exhibits, Margaret poured over custody agreements, a lengthy financial stipulation, and countless emails in order to demonstrate exactly how the abuser had violated relevant provisions and disrupted their child’s special needs services.  She also made herself available for late night and weekend telephone calls and meetings with Laura to assist her both with legal strategy and with her emotional response to the abuser’s hostile communications with her regarding their son.

As a result of Margaret’s efforts, the court ordered the abuser to comply with the terms of the custody agreement and to make the payments he was refusing to make.  In addition, Laura’s educational hearing against the Board of Education to get her son into a special school can now proceed unobstructed by the abuser.  When asked about how she approached the case, Margaret explained that she worked to tell a compelling story with the motion so that the judge could understand the unique situation.

Working Together to Move Forward

Margaret’s dedicated efforts continue.  While Laura has already begun to receive funds owed to her, there will be ongoing representation related to enforcement of the order, including court appearances and client meetings.  In addition, Margaret continues to assist Laura in preparing proposals to present at parent coordination meetings to obtain the father’s cooperation in enrolling the child in a special school.  Margaret looks forward to continuing to work with Laura and with Sanctuary.

Sanctuary’s Amanda Norejko praised Margaret, stating,

“Margaret’s hard work, diligence, excellent legal analysis and writing skills have given this mother the opportunity for a brighter future for herself and her son that she desperately desired.”

Reflecting on her experience so far, Margaret said, “It was wonderful working with Amanda [from Sanctuary], to have the opportunity to work with someone who is an expert in this field.  You can lose sight of how much legal work can matter.  Working one-on-one with a client makes you realize that you can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

Laura also stated her appreciation for Margaret’s dedicated efforts:

“My son and I have been enormously blessed . . . with the valuable assistance of Margaret whom I can only thank forever with all my heart as a mother and as a woman and as a minority.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 17, 2017 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor Margaret’s outstanding pro bono work. Learn more about the event here.

If you can’t join us, but would like to support Sanctuary for Family’s work, please consider making an Above & Beyond donation here.

Thank you for supporting our 2016 Annual Giving Campaign

Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we raised nearly $765,000 to benefit the thousands of gender violence survivors we will serve in 2017.

Thanks to the generosity of people like you, we raised nearly $765,000 to benefit the thousands of gender violence survivors we will serve in 2017. We’re incredibly grateful for your support. To say thank you we asked Amy, a survivor of domestic violence and star of our Annual Giving Campaign, and our Executive Director, Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, to say a few words on behalf of all of us at Sanctuary for Families.

Davis Polk Team Achieves Tremendous Financial Victory for Mother of Two

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of Davis Polk attorneys for their for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Fiona.”

At this year’s Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Awards and Benefit, Sanctuary for Families is honoring a team of Davis Polk & Wardwell attorneys for their pro bono work on behalf of Sanctuary client “Fiona,” a survivor of domestic violence whose abusive ex-husband owed thousands of dollars in child support arrears. The Davis Polk team of partner Joel Cohen and associates Daniel Spitzer, Nick DiMarino, and Rachelle Navarro, working hand in hand with Sanctuary lawyers, not only won a court order compelling the husband to pay $20,000 in overdue support, but also doubled the amount of child support that the children would receive going forward.

When Fiona came to Sanctuary for Families several years ago, a pro bono team of Davis Polk attorneys helped her obtain a divorce judgment with a stipulation for child support.

In the divorce judgment, Fiona’s ex-husband stipulated to biweekly child support payments and the annual exchange of financial information so the child support order could be updated accordingly. After discovering that her ex-husband had secured a job making significantly more income than he had at the time of the divorce judgment, Fiona returned to Sanctuary for assistance in enforcing the judgment and increasing the child support payments. Once again, Sanctuary turned to Davis Polk for pro bono assistance, and once again, Davis Polk delivered. Partner Joel Cohen and associates Daniel Spitzer, Nick DiMarino and Rachelle Navarro deftly navigated complex procedural questions and obtained a huge financial victory for Fiona and her children.

Procedurally, this case presented “quite a thicket” said Joel Cohen, a litigation partner at Davis Polk. But “the great thing about working with Sanctuary,” he continued, “is that you’re working with experts.” He credited Sanctuary attorneys Dara Sheinfeld and Amanda Norejko with providing excellent guidance and advocacy as the Davis Polk team strategized how to get Fiona the best possible result. Rachelle, a litigation associate at the firm, concurred, adding that “it was wonderful and challenging to constantly be in discussions about the correct procedural path.”

The first filing in Family Court was a petition for enforcement of the divorce judgment, which was supplemented by a petition for modification a few months later. The Family Court granted the team’s request for modification of the amount of child support going forward but denied the petition to enforce and collect past arrears because it believed it lacked jurisdiction to do so.  The pro bono team then prepared an enforcement action in Supreme Court, where they ultimately negotiated an extremely advantageous settlement for Fiona and her children. As a result of their diligent efforts in two separate courts, Fiona now receives twice as much in biweekly child support payments as she did previously, and she was awarded $20,000 in child support arrears.

This was the first Sanctuary for Families case for these Davis Polk litigators, but it certainly won’t be the last. “The work [Sanctuary] does for its clients is broad-ranging and essential,” says Daniel, “and goes far beyond just providing legal services.”Fiona was a particularly engaging client, and the team agrees that the relationship they were able to develop with the client was the most rewarding part of working on her case. As for Fiona, she says she will be forever thankful to her wonderful attorneys:

Thank you and please continue with your selfless help to other families such as ours. You have left such an indelible mark in our lives forever. We are truly grateful.”

Join us at our Above & Beyond celebration on October 19, 2016 at the Highline Ballroom as we honor Davis Polk’s outstanding pro bono work.  

Emily Suran is a Project, Energy and Infrastructure Finance associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP and currently represents a Sanctuary client seeking asylum. She is also a member of Sanctuary’s Pro Bono Council. 

 

Where children are prisoners and crayons are contraband.

As an immigration lawyer, a week of immersion in immigration and refugee law is a dream, but as a human, I dread the crying children.

The Central American refugee crisis has sent tens of thousands of people, primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, through Mexico and across the US border. These refugees, the vast majority of them women and children, are escaping extreme violence and abuse in their homes and communities. Their path to safety in the US is littered with danger.

For many who make it, another brutal reality awaits – family detention in facilities across the southwest US, and deportation back to the danger they left behind.

Many of the refugees are victims of gender-based violence, and Sanctuary’s attorneys are eager to help. Carmen Rey, Deputy Director of Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project is in Texas this week to provide legal service support to detained mothers and children at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, which houses up to 2,400 detained immigrant families.

This is the first of three posts Carmen will be sharing from Dilley. Check back throughout the week to follow her journey and hear about the mothers and children she defends.

As an immigration lawyer, the prospect of a week of complete immersion in immigration and refugee law is a dream, but as a human, I dread the crying children.

Starting in 2014, in response to the influx of refugee mothers and children from Central America arriving at the US border in search of protection, private prison subcontractors working with the Department of Homeland Security created a series of detention facilities in isolated areas across the southern US.

In these jails, these refugees are held far from their families and from legal resources, and in conditions that sometimes violate basic standards of decency. As a lawyer, that all makes me furious, and so the prospect of helping them fight against their continued detention is energizing.

But what scares me is that, because of the arbitrary rules of these jails, there is little we can do to comfort the children.

The innocuously named South Texas Family Residential Center is one of these jails. Located in Dilley, Texas, over an hour away from the nearest city, San Antonio, it is one of the largest civil detention facilities in the US, and it is where I will be volunteering my time for the next week.

During these seven days, in a warren of small rooms in a trailer in the middle of south Texas, volunteer attorneys and legal assistants from across the US, will spend long days meeting with hundreds of refugee mothers and their children. Guided by the on-the-ground expertise of the CARA Project, we will work to prevent these families from being immediately deported back to places where they face severe violence and even death.

In these rooms, we will ask these families the horrors that brought them to our borders, and get the details that allow us to help them win their freedom. And that will ease my fury and make me proud to be a lawyer.

But in the telling of these horrors, the mothers will cry. And when children see their mothers cry, the children will cry. But because these children are prisoners of our government, the attorneys and legal assistant volunteers can’t so much as give these children pack of crayons to distract them.

In the South Texas Residential Center, children are prisoners and crayons are contraband.

And so, watching the children cry, I will feel my eyes fill with tears and feel powerless to help a young child stop crying. And as a human being, that is what scares me.

Carmen Rey is an attorney and the Deputy Director of Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project