Annual Letter

The Custody Project
PO Box 20753
El Sobrante CA 94820-0753 USA

Board of Directors: William Freeman, Jennifer Rushing, Donna Signorelli

510.223.3432 (Corp)
850.682.3460 (Info)
Tue-Thu, 10-4 CST (Info)
  Fed. Tax ID #95-4521373
August 31st, 2016

Dear Folks,

The Custody Project assists qualified mothers and their children with care, custody, and visitation expenses in recognition of the extreme hardships imposed upon some families as the children are growing. (Our most recent letter is in our Annual Newsletter for Donors and Mothers, pp. 1-3).

TCP received many calls from mothers throughout the country this year for help with kidnapping issues and for assistance when they are unable to get fair hearings and trials before the court. Affecting their ability to protect their children, to establish safe visitation schedules, to obtain child support, to avoid and prevent the kidnapping of their children, to halt domestic violence, and to move to improve the quality of their lives, when poorly crafted visitation schedules undermine The Best Interests of the Child Standard, extreme stress upon the child/children and financial disaster upon the mother can be sharply imposed.

Recently, The Custody Project assisted a mother whose little girl remains in harm's way daily. A few years ago, this youngster began disclosing sexual abuse to her mother, therapist, doctors, and other professionals when on unsupervised visitation with her father. After two years of repeated investigations, findings, and court motions, the judge, ignoring the best interests of the child, ruled to remove custody from the mother, in whose care their daughter is safe and protected. Now, at six, this little girl was recently placed in the custody of her father and the mother's time was substantially reduced to limited visitation contact. Having both exhausted their savings and retirement funds, the mother continues to spend every available dollar defending her daughter, as does the child's maternal grandmother. Owing thousands to her trial attorney, the mother pays him monthly. The Custody Project spoke with her attorney about an affordable payment plan at no interest, which was agreeable, and made plans to send funds towards legal expenses but he decided to carry her pro bono and refused to accept the grant. Her attorney also negotiated with an appellate attorney to appeal her case without cost. It is hoped that through their combined litigation efforts, this little girl will eventually be protected, the case remanded, and the orders appropriately modified by the trial court judge below. As the outstanding attorney fees, ongoing court fees, expert witness expenses, transcripts, depositions, loss of income due to closing her business, and the costs of an interstate move to remain near her daughter have created continuing and severe shortfalls for her family as she builds her business anew, when the mother requested her grant be re-directed towards rent to ensure the family stability as they re-settle, The Custody Project assisted.

As there are further steps this mother can take to protect this child, and both mother and daughter need our help, please give generously so that a light may shine on this case and so many like it.

Another mother helped this year suffered repeated abuse and violence at the hands of her husband, who broke her back eventually. The trial court awarded sole physical and legal custody of their young daughter to her but the father appealed and continues to file motions to undermine its decision. On her behalf, The Custody Project helped her set up an interest -free payment plan of less than $100 per month toward the appellate costs due, directed her to obtain her trial transcripts through another agency for free, and sent a grant in her name to her attorney toward upcoming hearings and associated costs for her case on appeal. When this mother requested aid so that she could continue to protect her daughter, The Custody Project assisted.

Because they echo the plight and the extremes a mother can experience, these excerpts are shared yearly:

TCP assisted a mom who, unreasonably denied visitation or custody of her child, said, "I have been unable to see my son for two years now. I owe tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees still..."

Another mother, requiring the lifting of her childrens' legal restraining orders, which were causing them to live in unnecessary and extreme poverty, stated, "To provide well for my children we should move, yet they are restrained by legal orders and we live in poverty as a result."

It is common for mothers to stretch dollars daily to feed, clothe, and care for their children and themselves, often working for $4 - $12 per hour, with babysitting, waitress, piecework, and other occupations paying below or near minimum wage. However, when circumstances arise such as domestic violence, abuse, legal attempts to remove custody, absent or inadequate child support, or legal restraints that prevent mothers from improving the quality of life for their families, their lives are made extraordinarily more difficult and their economic challenges are made infinitely harsher. With attorneys requiring substantial retainers of $1,000 - $10,000+, charging $25 - $300+ per hour, and court and legal fees in addition, the overarching cost to mothers defending the custody and best interests of their children can seen insurmountable.

If not broken by its financial crush, mothers must withstand relentless court and ancillary expenses to protect their children. Imposed upon the disadvantaged and overextended, such burdens cause unavoidable familial hardships, and there remains a great need to be met. So, once a year, a letter is sent inviting your gracious donations, contributions, and services. It is an honor to stand with you and know that we help to make the way easier for families in need. Your generosity makes it possible for The Custody Project to help qualified mothers with legal costs when they are defending the custody and visitation of their children, and by providing funds for common necessities when such legal expenses prevent it and they are unable. It is your grants which have kept some of these deserving families afloat, often at perilous junctures. And, although the daunting difficulties such mothers face make complex stories where excerpts barely, or will not, do justice, this letter shares a little about our families, although confidentiality precludes names or pictures. (For more stories, see our site's About Us: Case Excerpts and mothers, see our Services Section).

Along with TCP's Heart to Heart Grant Program, which has been operational for over twenty years, our revolving-door loan program serves when, as mothers repay their loans, the funds become available to help other families in need. TCP has also assisted in other ways, including telephone support, brief lectures, information exchange, and meeting with mothers. Because of You, we have helped families in the U.S. Virgin Islands and all 50 states, with the exception of Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and our range continues to expand.

Your compassion makes the difference. Please help us shine a light on the difficulties these families face and join with others to play the numbers: with 100 joining to donate $25 each, we reach $2500. When 100 donate $100 each, $10,000 is available; with $1 from every mother in America, we would have millions to meet the needs of our families. Most of the difficulties our mothers face are resolved with adequate funds for legal representation. Please visit our You Can Help section on our site to explore many ways that you can help and our Annual Newsletter for National Drive updates.

Acknowledgement Wall. We are especially indebted to our long-standing donors, our Board of Directors, and all of you giving of your time, money and/or resources, as you are the backbone of our work. Your generosity to mothers and their children has made our continuing service possible for years; it is your giving to families in difficult circumstances which has been essential since 1994. To be listed on our site's Acknowledgement Wall, please add a note with your donation or contact Donna @ 850.682.3460. To the businesses, foundations, and service organizations benefiting the lives of families by supporting The Custody Project with donations: you are listed on our site @ Contributors: Community Angels. In light of the worldwide need to assuage those in tragic dilemmas, your compassion touches our mothers and children, who are often desperate and forgotten, and we thank all of you. And to those who have allowed us to assist, to the Mothers, we sincerely thank you, too.

Assisting children and their mothers for twenty-two years, The Custody Project's mission is "to promote the general welfare, both directly and indirectly, of women and their children as a unit, as related to care, custody, and visitation issues." You lighten the difficulties mothers face by donating funds for legal representation and common necessities, and your compassion makes an incalculable difference.

Much remains to be done to better assist these hapless families in need. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law as The Custody Project is a 501(c)(3), charitable, tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, Fed. Tax ID #95-4521373. You can download a current or prior Annual Appeal from our site @ About Us: Annual Letter / Annual Newsletter, receive it by email or during the year as postage becomes affordable, and share our information with interested donors and mothers needing assistance.

Making the Holiday and Christmas Season merrier and Mother's Day more cheerful, your gifts cover legal expenses for qualified mothers who must defend custody and visitation of their children in courts and help those who can no longer provide the common necessities of life for their families due to the cost of defending the custody or visitation of their children.

Best Wishes. Happy Holidays. May this New Year be full of wisdom and blessings. Thank you for your prior gifts, ongoing support, and quiet compassion to our families.

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