Bridget and David Walls
By Bridget and David Walls – How many times had we driven by the courthouse, oblivious to what was actually occurring behind those doors. We assumed this hallowed ground was where the innocent were justly protected while the guilty incurred proper consequences. The raw experience of reality has a way of shattering naiveté.
In October of 2015, we were presented with an added dimension in the non-profit work we have done with single mothers and children since 1996. We were faced with the need to hire a lawyer to represent one of the mothers whose daughter had been abducted by the father. Thus began our step into, what was for us, foreign territory.
To say we were shocked at the lack of human regard and respect displayed in some of the cases we have witnessed is putting it mildly. Two years and numerous cases later we have concluded it is not the system that is broken, but rather a seeming complacency in family courtrooms, nationwide, whereby children are sawed in half between households, regardless of solid evidence of the instability and incompetency of one of the parents. Rights of parents trump what is the best interest of the child.
Many of the women whom we represent had been fighting for proper, protective custody of their children for years before we began working together. Some had accrued large sums of debt for legal fees ($20,000 on up) with, yet, no solid resolution regarding stable boundaries for their children. None of these mothers are vindictively trying to get back at ex-spouses. In each of these cases the children had not been thriving due to the duress of living with an unstable parent. As we reviewed court orders we were shocked to find that, many times, lies spoken about these women are interspersed in court orders as fact.
Stand in the hallways of family court and you will most days see a woman or two or three, wearily walking into the courtroom with a large file. Having exhausted all financial resources they are now resorting to representing themselves in, once again, an effort to appropriate proper custody of their children. Each day in court is a missed day at work. Sometimes it is well into the day when a mother finds her case has been rescheduled for another date. The amount of emotional and financial stress these women have to bear is incomprehensible, as most of them are living at or below the poverty level. But with great tenacity and love for their children they are willing to, once again, attempt to approach the altar of family court, with hopes that, this time, a decision will be made that is of the best interest of the children.
From our point of view, as we have now become more seasoned in this legal arena, what is needed is strong representation for these women.
Our vision is to set up a faith based non-profit, legal service which will have a salaried lawyer, specializing in family law, whose full commitment is to listen carefully to the women and take up the burden of defending them and their children as if this were his own. Custody and child support will be the main areas addressed. We also envision hiring a Para legal as well as a Social Worker as oftentimes, these women and children have been tapped into fragmented rather than integrative services. As has always been the case since we began the non-profit of New Direction 20 years ago, no one will ever be turned away due to inability to pay. If a client is able to financially invest toward our services we would gladly accept what they are able to contribute as that will be used toward the care of those who are unable to pay.
If you have an interest in this vision please feel free to call David Walls at 828-206-0495 or write: New Direction/Mustard Seed Project PO Box 18745 Asheville, NC 28814.
Bio: Bridget and David Walls founded the non-profit of New Direction in 1996 with the mission of restoration of youth and families. Bridget, a licensed professional counselor, and David, a stock broker quit their jobs and in January of 1996 opened up a Christian counseling office with the policy of no one turned away due to inability to pay. In 1998 New Direction Farm, a therapeutic boarding school, in Madison County NC was opened and operated for 18 years serving over 300 children. Individuals and churches supported that work. 80% of the children came from single parent families who were unable to financially contribute toward the tuition. In 2014 a counseling office was opened in North Asheville with, once again, a number of clients being single mothers and children. At that point the Mustard Seed Project was birthed. For more information www.newdirectionmustardseed.com