Kamaria Chery is an active-duty soldier currently stationed at Fort Hood and the mother to a newborn son. When her son was only 5 months old, his father filed a family suit seeking to be named the Sole Managing Conservator for him. Chery was concerned because shortly before, she had reported him to the authorities at Fort Hood, and they issued a military “No Contact Order” between them. Chery came to Lone Star Legal Aid for assistance when she learned about the suit her son’s father filed and was referred to the Military and Veterans Unit. She hoped she would be the Sole Managing Conservator of her son with access and possession to the father being denied, or being replaced with supervised visits between the father and child.

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After three months, a Temporary Orders Hearing was held telephonically and after the presentation of testimony and evidence, the Judge ordered the parties be named Joint Managing Conservators, with the father having visitation on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am until 6pm. Due to the allegations of family violence, the exchanges were to take place in the local Walmart parking lot and all communication between the parties was ordered to take place through the communication app “AppClose” for the sake of record-keeping. The judge stated at the close of the hearing that he took into consideration the family violence which was referenced during testimony and admitted that if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a prevailing issue, he would have ordered a home study of the parents’ homes or implemented supervised visits.

The weekend visits and exchanges went according to plan until one evening a month later. The father showed up in the Walmart parking lot with his son and acknowledged Chery, who was already waiting in the parking lot for him. Without stopping, the father appeared irritated and drove away without exchanging possession of their son. To make matters worse, he disabled the communication app, AppClose, so that Ms. Chery could not communicate with him about their son. Panicked, Ms. Chery contacted the police and filed a report, but the police admitted they could not facilitate the exchange of the child without a written court order.

Chery didn’t have a written court order because as it turned out, the father had fired his attorney and requested she no longer work on drafting the written order. Fortunately, Lori Fergie of Lone Star Legal Aid’s Military and Veterans Unit was prepared and filed a Motion to Enter Orders for the judge to sign. Attorney Fergie also filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which would require the father to bring the child before the court so the court could determine which party had proper possession of the child. This writ must be served upon the party. Attorney Fergie hired a private process server and the father evaded service four times. Simultaneously, Attorney Fergie filed a Motion to Modify Temporary Orders.

After learning about the documents filed by Chery’s attorney, the father asked Chery if she would agree to a 50/50 split with no requirement of child support and then threatened to hide their son from her if she didn’t agree to his conditions. Chery thought this was a credible threat because he had family nearby. At the hearing, Attorney Fergie asked for the court to designate Chery the only parent with legal rights to make certain decisions pertaining to the child and no access or possession granted to the father, or supervised visits with the father instead. After testimony, the judge decided the father should have no access to or possession of the child until further order of the court and that the father must turn the child over to the mother at noon at the police station.

The judge also gave Attorney Fergie explicit instructions to contact him if anything were to go wrong with the exchange. Although the father tried to instigate a scene at the exchange, the exchange happened relatively smoothly and without incident. Our client was reunited with her 9 month old son after being improperly separated from him for 10 days. She now has sole access and possession of her son without interference from the father. Chery is overjoyed to have her son in her arms, and Lone Star Legal Aid is happy to have been of service to a mother and veteran in need.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

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