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Couple Accused of Bribery to Facilitate Favorable Child Custody

A local couple has been accused of paying bribes to the political opponent of the judge that oversaw their child custody case. The child custody case stemmed from a custody dispute over the husband's twin daughters from a previous marriage. The original judge in the child custody case awarded the mother of the children primary custody of the twin girls. The couple from the Dallas area allegedly paid $150,000 to support the original judge's political opponent during a judicial election.

The custody battle began in 2004 when the mother and father of the twin girls divorced. The divorced mother and father could not agree on the custody of the girls who have special needs. An agreement was reached in the summer of 2006 only to be upended by a report that described the divorced parents' relationship as tense and that the girls had a hard time transitioning between the two households. The mother was named as the twins' sole managing conservator and got custody of the girls during the week and every second weekend. According to the same ruling, the father had to pay over $400,000 of his ex-wife's court expenses and $30,000 in annual child support payments. The father tried to transfer the case to another court and made appeals to the Court of Appeals and Texas Supreme Court. The appeals were denied. The father was also sanctioned for frivolous claims.

The original judge of the child custody dispute ran for re-election in 2008. The couple paid $150,000 to the opponent's campaign consultant. The opponent was able to gather more campaign contributions and defeated the judge in the election. Within one month of the new judge's win, the father of the twin girls petitioned to reopen their child custody case. The new judge recused herself and a formal appellate judge was selected by a judge that handles judicial assignments.

The former appellate judge set aside the father's sanctions and found the original judge's decision was not in the best interest of the children. The former appellate judge explained the mother had remarried and moved 50 miles away. The move created a detrimental and potentially dangerous commute to the girls' school in Dallas. The former appellate judge also explained the mother had alienated the girls against their father. Ultimately, the judge ruled the divorced mother and father to be joint managing conservators. The judge gave the father primary custody during the week and every second weekend of the month. The mother got custody on the remaining weekends. The mother has appealed the former appellate judge's decision.

Source: The Dallas Morning News, "Couple in Custody Battle Accused of Paying Judge for Favorable Rulings," Valerie Wigglesworth, Ed Housewright and Matthew Haag, 10/23/10

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