March 13, 2012

How to Help a Friend: Cash Raised for Woman in Custody Fight

Many of us sit and ponder how can we help a friend that is going through a situation like the one described below.  What her friends did for her is a good place to start if you know someone going through a bad custody case.  Parents facing this, especially when having to fight an abuser for custody, still need the emotional understanding and support of their friends and family; however they need some financial help to pay for the lawyers and visits and and and as well.


Cash raised for woman in custody fight

Updated: Sunday, 11 Mar 2012, 12:22 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 11 Mar 2012, 12:22 PM CDT

  • VIRGINIA BLACK,South Bend Tribune

VIRGINIA BLACK,South Bend Tribune - SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — As Marla Theocharides has spent the last several days across the world fighting to spend time with her two children, friends back home have been quietly going about the business of helping her cope.

They are cheering her on over Facebook as she posts her setbacks, frustrations and occasional small victories in her lingering custody battle with her ex-husband, Charis.

And, as Marla's own government apparently has been able to do little to intervene on her behalf, friends back home are rallying behind her in trying to help raise money for what has become a phenomenally expensive proposition.

Marla filed for divorce in the United States in 2010, and a local judge claimed jurisdiction and awarded custody to Marla last summer. But Charis, who had the couple's two young children with him in Cyprus, won custody in a family court in Cyprus.

The result has been two attorneys, representing each side, arguing the case in each country. Cypriot court officials, who resisted efforts to resolve the jurisdictional debate with local authorities, have dragged their feet in furthering the custody case there.

So in addition to mounting legal fees, occasional trips to Cyprus to see her children have added to the costs for Marla, who manages a local dental office.

Two friends, Lori Cunningham and Leslie Kleppe, offered to step in and help Marla defray some of those costs.

Cunningham said last week that Marla was initially skeptical when she broached the topic.

Cunningham, who had worked locally with Charis, persuaded Marla that a fundraiser could work.

"Things have just come together in the last couple of months," she said, noting that the owner of the venue has donated everything but the cost of alcohol and the licensed bartending, and other businesses have eagerly donated items to be sold or raffled at the event. "She's really herself starting to see how this could work."

Cunningham has followed Marla's custody case through earlier Tribune articles and, now, her Facebook posts.

"No parent wants to imagine going through what she's going through and losing their children," Cunningham said. "I am amazed at the things (Charis) is constantly able to do."

As the plans have been coming together to help her financially back home, Marla said she's still repeatedly appealing to local government representatives, media in Cyprus and whatever offices she can think of.

Yet progress has been slow and sometimes nearly nonexistent.

For example, Marla posted this online status update Monday:

"Day 4 in Cyprus. Went to court and we had a meeting in the judge's chambers. I was not allowed inside. The court is allowing me to see my children for 1.5 hours today at Charis' mother's home supervised by his parents and him! I lost it. This is a human rights issue. No mother should be prevented from seeing her children for 14 months and have to have a 1.5 hour supervised visitation!!!!"

On Wednesday:

"Day 6, found out the Charis illegally obtained Cypriot passports for both children without my consent and without my signature. Visited the passport office ... When I asked how this happened, they replied, it is Cyprus. No other explanation was given. Meetings with attorneys all day! I am told that I will not see the children again. Charis is not allowing it. We went to court for a court order and the soonest they can see us is on March 23, but I leave on March 11."

From Thursday:

"Thank you for all the messages and prayers! Keep them coming, that's what keep me going."

From Friday:

"Had court today and the judge put pressure on the welfare department to finish the report as soon as possible. We have court again on March 23 for a status update ... I will not be in Cyprus for that court hearing. Had an interview with Cyprus Mail, they are doing a story about my case. ... finally we had our last visit with the kids. It was emotional to say goodbye."

Marla, who has been arrested and jailed in her quest to visit 6-year-old Katerina and 2-year-old Marcus, insists she won't give up. But it's still difficult.

"I need the power of prayer!" she wrote Feb. 28. "Please pray for my safety as I travel to Cyprus. Please pray that I am able to have my children with me and spend time with them!"


Information from: South Bend Tribune,

Copyright Associated Press, Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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