Mother denied direct contact with son in 12-year-old custody case
FORT WORTH -- Standing outside a Tarrant County courtroom with tears in her eyes, Anna Weber expressed mixed emotions Monday after hearing that the 12-year-old custody fight with her ex-husband over their son was finally over.
The judge ruled that Weber can't have direct contact with her son, now 13, but she can watch him grow up from a distance.
"If he has a school play or a band concert, or whatever, I can go as long as I don't confront him," Weber said. "... It had to come to an end. We could fight for the rest of our lives. I'm sad, so sad, but I'm also relieved."
Weber's ex-husband, Todd, was not there when the case was finalized, but his attorney, John Groce Jr., said Todd and his son are also glad that the ordeal is over.
"You can imagine that this has put a lot of stress on the child -- just knowing that this is going on," Groce said. "... And Todd is just ready to get on and live his life. ... He has paid close to $300,000 in legal fees for all of this, which has about broke his back."
The Star-Telegram first published an article about the custody fight in August to illustrate the extremes to which parents will go in cases involving children.
Neither the child nor Todd is being fully identified to protect the child's identity. Weber, however, asked that her full name -- Anna Jansen Weber -- be published so that her son will be able to contact her someday if he wants.
"I hope that, eventually, he will see that he needs me in his life and that he has another side of a family who wants to love and support him," Weber said. "I've never stopped loving him and I will always be here. ... And the main thing I want him to know is that I'm not who his father has portrayed me to be."
Since their separation in 1998, Weber and Todd, both of Grapevine, have been in and out of Judge Randy Catterton's 231st District Court, fighting over visitation, parental rights and attorneys fees. Todd has accused Weber of abusing drugs and having mental issues. Weber has accused Todd of being narcissistic and poisoning their son to think she is the enemy.
Each claims that the other has repeatedly violated the judge's orders.
According to court documents and interviews, Todd won custody of their son eight years ago and petitioned the court to allow Weber only supervised visits after she became addicted to prescription pain pills after minor surgery. Weber said the supervised visits were heart-wrenching, and she decided to stop them for a time and work on getting herself together.
In 2006 -- after undergoing therapy, remarrying and having another child -- Weber turned back to the courts in hopes of being reunited with her son.
The judge ordered everyone to undergo reintroduction therapy with a psychologist so the child could gradually be refamiliarized with his mother. But Todd was uncooperative and canceled appointments, according to the psychologist's notes in the case file.
Meanwhile, Todd accused Weber of refusing to take court-ordered drug tests and failing to complete a court-ordered 12-step program.
Still, in the midst of all the tears and rage, Todd and Weber entered into an agreement in which they decided that, if their son, after therapy with a psychologist, didn't want to have a relationship with his mom, each side would dismiss their claims.
Todd wouldn't try to terminate her rights, and she would not pursue visitation.
But the court-ordered psychologist discontinued sessions after Todd and his son were uncooperative, and a new social worker was appointed.
In July, that social worker wrote to the judge, saying the child "feels very certain that he wishes to have no contact with his mother."
"He is calm and reasoned in this statement," the social worker wrote. "He recognizes that she is his mother, and always will be, and does not rule out the possibility of getting to know her as an adult. However, until that time he would prefer to have her 'out of my life.'"
On Monday, Groce wanted Catterton to sign a final order that would preclude Weber from receiving information about her son, access to his medical or school records, the right to attend school or extracurricular activities, or to consent to his medical treatment during an emergency.
Weber's attorney, Sam Boyd, meanwhile, asked the judge to give reintroduction therapy another shot and proposed a less-restrictive order.
In the end, Catterton signed a final order that prohibits Weber from having direct contact with her son -- unless he invites it -- but allows her access to his records and to attend his public activities, among other things.
Groce, who was hired this year after Todd's longtime attorney withdrew, said he has never seen a similar case in his 15 years of practice.
"I got in on the end of it, but just reviewing the records and the things that happened in this case, it is beyond me how this was allowed to go on," he said. "... I can't say that it's the court's fault or the attorneys' fault that it has been allowed to go for so long, but it's just been crazy how that has happened."
Boyd, who has been working pro bono since December because Weber and her family can't afford him anymore, said he hopes that the parties can move forward.
"There are some things that just have to be finished -- and this was one of them," he said.