7 “Salma” defied the odds and broke free from domestic violence. Salma had been in a relationship with “Jeff,” who repeatedly physically and sexually abused her. However, the young mother from Morocco, who had recently immigrated to the United States, soon faced a battle with her ex-boyfriend over their young son, “Robby.” Jeff was a registered, level-two sex offender whose parental rights to a child from a previous relationship had been terminated because he was deemed an unfit parent. Child protective services suspected that Jeff had physically abused Robby. Yet Jeff remained relentless. He adamantly demanded that he have custody of Robby. Mintz Levin and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) partnered to represent Salma in the child custody trial in Middlesex Probate and Family Court. Co-counseling with experienced GBLS family law attorney Manisha Bhatt, Mintz Levin attorney Matthew Levitt provided guidance in trial strategy and preparation, and attorneys Lyzzette Bullock and Jane Haviland solicited witness testimony and led Salma through practice sessions to prepare her for the frightening experience of testifying in court. Because Jeff was representing himself, Salma needed to be prepared. The same man who abused her so horribly in private would be cross-examining her in public. Assisted by Mintz Levin summer associates Nicole Henry and Emma Nitzberg Follansbee and former Mintz Levin paralegal Sigrid Wheatley, the legal team delved into Jeff’s criminal background, conducting legal research, doing background checks, assembling exhibit books, lining up expert testimony, and interviewing witnesses, including a mental health expert who had evaluated Jeff. The team subpoenaed Jeff’s previous employment records and discovered that he failed to disclose that he was registered as a sex offender on his employment application. They then combed through his recent bankruptcy filings and uncovered omitted assets and overstated liabilities. At trial, Lyzzette elicited testimony from a veteran social worker from the Depart- ment of Children & Families who had stopped conducting visits at Jeff’s home because she was afraid of him. Having this witness corroborate Jeff’s propensity toward intimi- dation and violence was an important moment in the case. The background research and the subsequent witness preparation enabled the team to demonstrate that it would be in Robby’s best interest that Salma have sole custody. The judge’s decision was very favorable for Salma, enabling her to retain sole custody and specifying that Jeff’s visits would be supervised to ensure Robby’s safety. The judge also ordered Jeff to pay child support to Salma. “[The] trial work was outstanding—to the point that the judge incorporated large parts of the expert witness testimony that Jane solicited and the witness testimony that Lyzzette solicited directly into her findings,” Manisha said. The ruling is expected to provide far-reaching protection against any future legal actions by Jeff. Salma had tears in her eyes when she learned the great news. She could not stop thanking the team for their unparalleled efforts in representing her. She is relieved that the case is over. “It is incredibly gratifying to be able to help a young woman out of an extremely difficult situation, and to see her take major steps toward having a more stable life for herself and her son,” Lyzzette said. A Bridge to Stability “Matt, Lyzzette, and Jane were dedicated to our client’s case in every way imaginable.” Manisha Bhatt Senior Attorney Greater Boston Legal Services