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With Pro Bono Help, Navy Mother Gains Sole Custody Over Minor Child With Developmental Disorder

January 11, 2019

A Navy servicemember wished to obtain sole custody of her minor child with a developmental disorder. The child’s father had been absent from the child’s life since birth, and had not provided the mother with any child support. Moreover, the mother was concerned that the father lacked the skills and resources necessary to care for a minor child with a disability. Despite his previous lack of interest in the child, the father sued the mother for joint custody.

The mother then visited a military legal assistance office to seek help, where a military attorney referred her to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project. The program connected the servicemember with an attorney who offered to provide pro bono representation. After helping with the necessary legal actions for this case—such as appearing at court hearings, depositions, drafting and sending discovery, and ultimately negotiating the dismissal—the biological father eventually dropped his case for joint custody and relinquished his parental rights. This allowed the mother to maintain custody of her child, and the mother’s husband could finally make a stepparent adoption.

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