For One Low-Income Dad, Father’s Day Gift Came Early: Buhai Center Helps Secure Overnight Visits With Son

Hector* felt helpless and lost. His ex-girlfriend had a long history of preventing him from visiting their son, and when she threatened to leave the state with him and cut all ties, Hector knew he needed help. He wanted a custody agreement to ensure visits, but could not afford a lawyer. Hector thought he had nowhere to turn to for assistance, until a friend told him about the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law. He called, and from his first meeting with Center staff attorneys, Hector knew he had come to the right place. “I felt at home. The attorneys knew how to help me and laid out a great plan.” After meeting with Hector, the Buhai Center asked pro bono counsel, Soo J. Kim, an associate with the prestigious family law firm of Trope and Trope, to represent him in his paternity and custody suit. Eager to help Hector, Ms. Kim agreed to take on his case.

Hector’s ex-girlfriend had taken many steps to keep their son from him, including moving the child several hours away without consulting him. Recently, she threatened to use Hector’s health complications against him, and demanded that he stop seeing their son so her boyfriend could “become his new father.” Ms. Kim understood how time-sensitive Hector’s case was, since his ex-partner could leave California at any time with their son. Through effective lawyering, she acted-fast to secure paternity and custody orders from the family judge. Hector now has an enforceable agreement with his son’s mother, and was awarded overnight visitation with his son. This was a huge step-up from visits that were short and infrequent.

Hector felt a great sense of empowerment when the judge recognized his desire to be a part of his son’s life, and rewarded him for his efforts.  Hector now takes his son to movies and the beach, and spends quality time with him at his home. Hector said he can “really tell that their relationship is blossoming,” and he is very happy that his son now spends time with his paternal grandparents and aunt. “He even calls me Dad now,” said Hector, as he explained how his ex-girlfriend forbade their son from doing that for so long. Hector is looking forward to the future and the time he gets to spend with his son, especially his birthdays. “I would not be able to share these momentous occasions with my son,” exclaimed Hector, “if it wasn’t for the Harriett Buhai Center.”

*Name has been changed to protect the Center’s client.