Keeping Ellie Safe

Alex* cherishes his little girl, Ellie*, who loves to dance and talks to everyone she meets. No one would know that she has a heart problem that needs surgery. With assistance from the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, Alex will now be able to assure Ellie gets the medical care she needs.

Young Parents

Alex and Ellie’s mother were a couple in their teens and broke up shortly after Ellie’s birth. Alex contributed as much as he could to their small family, and visited Ellie several times a week. He was thrilled to be Ellie’s father.

Mother’s Threats

But, the responsibility of raising a child with a severe medical condition became difficult for Ellie’s mother as the primary caregiver. She started drinking heavily, and left Ellie with friends as she disappeared for hours or overnight without telling anyone where she was going. She threatened to never let Alex see Ellie again and told him she would move away. Alex became very concerned for Ellie’s safety and well-being, especially because of her heart condition.

Finding Legal Help

Alex sought legal advice, but he didn’t have enough money to hire an attorney. At the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, he worked with Pablo Schlueter-Corey, Senior Staff Attorney, and a team of volunteer attorneys to understand his rights as a father, learn how to act and speak in front of a judge, and prepare his custody and paternity case. At court, Alex and Ellie’s mother came to an agreement about Ellie. The judge accepted their agreement and ordered that Alex would have sole physical custody of Ellie and joint legal custody with Ellie’s mother so they would work together to help Ellie get medical treatment, which is about to take place.


Alex is so grateful to have the Center’s help. He says: “I didn’t know what rights I had as a dad until I came to the Center, but I knew how much I loved my daughter. I am thankful to the Center for helping me keep Ellie safe and to make sure she gets the help she needs.”

*Name and photo changed to protect client’s privacy.