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Texas woman convicted of bribery related to child custody case

Texas parents locked in child custody battles might say they would do anything to ensure they can live and spend enough time with their children. But most realize that they have to accept the terms laid out by a family law judge. Only in the most extreme child custody cases do parents thwart a court's final decision, and such cases usually result in even more restrictions on that parent's access to their children.

A Dallas-area woman who was accused of financing a judge's election campaign in order to get a more favorable ruling in her new husband's child custody case was convicted recently of bribery, engaging in organized criminal activity and money laundering. Her sentencing date hasn't been set yet, but she faces anything from probation to life imprisonment. Her case demonstrates both the lengths some parents will go to in child custody cases, as well as their consequences.

The case dates back to 2006, when the woman's husband lost joint custody of his twin daughters from a previous marriage. A judge gave primary custody to the twins' mother and ordered sanctions against the husband and his attorney. In turn, prosecutors in the bribery case said, the man and his new wife hired a consultant to promote the election campaign of a competing judge in hopes of reopening the child custody case for a better outcome.

In 2008, the competing judge began making payments to the campaign consultant and ended up spending roughly three times the amount on her election campaign that her opponent spent, resulting in her victory. After she took office in 2009, the couple petitioned to have the child custody case reopened. Although the newly elected judge recused herself from that case, she too was indicted on bribery charges. She was recently convicted and sentenced to 10 years of probation under a plea agreement that also forced her to resign.

The couple gained primary custody of the twin girls in May 2010; it's not clear how the woman's conviction will affect the custody agreement, or whether the father will also face charges of bribery. But the overall lesson is that efforts to undermine a child custody agreement are risky at best. If you need help contesting or modifying a child custody agreement, you're much better off working with an experienced family law attorney and going through the proper channels to gain more time with your children.

Source: Star-Telegram, "DFW woman convicted of bribing judge in child custody case," June 27, 2012

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