A/N: I am not a lawyer nor have I ever been involved in a child custody case. I’ve just seen a lot of Law & Order. I did my best with this chapter.
I took a seat in front of Judge Kleinman’s desk, nervousness twisting in my stomach. In the hopes of resolving this case peacefully, Judge Kleinman had called us all into his chambers the day before we were to begin court proceedings. I hoped that perhaps an agreement or judgement could be reached so easily, but I knew my ex-husband too well.
“Good of you to join us, Mr. and Mrs. Casillas,” the judge said in his nasally voice. His tone suggested that he was less than pleased with their tardiness.
“We apologize, your honor,” Huy’s new wife said softly, “there was traffic from Willow Creek.” This was the first time I had seen the new Mrs. Casillas. She looked exactly like the type of woman Huy wanted and sounded like one too.
Judge Kleinman grumbled a little and motioned everyone to gather in front of his desk. “Now, we have this matter about the custody of Loralee Thoreau. Nasty business child custody cases. In court, people have a habit of saying things they come to regret. I am hoping that today we can settle this matter quietly and without the fuss of a full-fledged court battle. Now, since Mr. Casillas is the instigator of this, I believe his story should be told first.”
Ms. Behar, his lawyer, opened her mouth to speak, but Huy started talking. Perhaps this could be cleared up today if Huy stuck his foot in it enough. “Your honor, the simple fact is that Camille is an unfit mother. She cheated on me when Loralee was hardly a year old and broke up our home.”
“Huy,” Ms. Behar hissed, attempting to cut in.
He waved her off. I could practically see the steam building behind his argument. Every negative thing he’d ever felt about me was about to come pouring out. “She works nights, your honor! She goes to work before Loralee gets home from school and gets home after she’s gone to bed. She doesn’t even take Loralee to the park! I was there a couple of weeks ago and it was that other woman who had taken Loralee out. My daughter shouldn’t be fobbed off onto her mother’s girlfriend!”
I glared at Huy and bit my tongue so hard it bled just to keep from talking. Unless asked a direct question, I was to let my lawyer speak for me. Interrupting Huy and trying to defend myself and Shirley wouldn’t look any better for me than his tirade does for Huy.
“That’s quite enough,” Judge Kleinman interrupted sharply. “Quite enough. Ms. Behar, control your client. Ms. Bellows, I’d like to hear your client’s side of things now.”
Julia Bellows was completely unruffled as she began to speak. “Mr. Casillas was abusive towards Ms. Thoreau for the duration of their marriage.” She laid a file on the desk. “Here you can read the account that Ms. Thoreau gave when she applied for a restraining order against Mr. Casillas. Further, yes, Ms. Thoreau did have an extra-marital affair while married to Mr. Casillas, but she informed him of it the morning after it had happened. The fact of that matter is that neither her love life of that time nor that of Mr. Casillas has any place in these proceedings. Ms. Thoreau holds a high-paying, low-hours job, your honor. She works only four days a week and is there to send Loralee off to school. It is a world I would like to live in, your honor, where the biggest crime a parent can commit is to not be home a couple of days a week when their child gets home from school.” She smirked over at Huy. I wanted to smile but I kept my face neutral. “Ms. Hines is not just Ms. Thoreau’s ‘girlfriend.’ They have been committed partners for over four years now and Ms. Hines has been living with Ms. Thoreau for over three. Ms. Hines is, then, much more qualified to be a parent to Loralee than Mrs. Casillas.”
When she took a pause for breath, Judge Kleinman looked up from the folder in front of him. “Is that it, then?”
“I would like to add that Ms. Thoreau is willing to allow Mr. Casillas weekly scheduled visits. Despite,” she stressed, “the fact that Mr. Casillas has not requested to see Loralee in a year. In past years, he has missed visits that he himself scheduled.”
“I’ll take that – “
“That’s fucking bullshit!” Huy jumped to his feet angrily. “I shouldn’t need to schedule a time to see my own daughter! She needs to be with me! She’s my daughter, Camille – you can’t take her from me!”
I looked over at him. “Huy, I think you just did that for yourself.” A smile began to curve my lips as I watched his dainty wife and his lawyer pull him from the room. Only an insane person would grant him even joint custody.
Judge Kleinman cleared his throat. “Well. I’d like you all to wait outside while I consider all of this carefully.”
I rose to my feet and walked into the hall with Shirley and Julia. “You were great, Camille,” Julia said quietly.
I laughed a little. “I didn’t really do anything.”
“I know. That was perfect.”
It wasn’t a half an hour later that Judge Kleinman called us back into his office. Huy had since calmed down, though he was still shooting dark looks towards me and Shirley.
“I’ll cut right to the chase here. I award full custody to Ms. Camille Thoreau.” Huy shouted a denial, but the judge continued over him. “Mr. Casillas can see Loralee only in a scheduled, supervised visit.”
I laughed with relieved glee and pulled Shirley into my arms.
“We did it!” She said, hugging me tightly. “She’s ours.”
I held onto Shirley, relief coursing through me. I had never felt so grateful for anything in my life. But one thing did come close. “I love you,” I whispered for her ears only. “I couldn’t do this without you.”
Her response was to hug me tighter, but that said more than any words could.
A/N: I’ve started and scrapped this chapter a couple of times and I’m still not completely happy with it, but I am happy to have the matter of where Loralee belongs resolved.