Family Law Attorney Kelly Chang Rickert Discusses the Kidnapping of Kimberly and Kelly Yates from Kelly Chang Rickert on Vimeo.
This morning, CNN Headline News asked me to opine on the Yates case. What an amazing story!
In 1985, Russell and Elaine Yates were married, with 2 children, Kelly (10 months old) and Kimberly Yates (3 years old). Russell was a royal jerk. He cheated on her NUMEROUS times. Elaine caught him once, on a yacht – that was the final straw.
Weeks later, she tried to confront him with this incident, and they ended up fighting, and he beat her, sending her to the Emergency Room. He states that she kicked and punched him too. Not too long after, Russell came home in the middle of the night, discovering empty beds and cribs.
Russell tried to file a missing persons report. “They’re with mom”, “It’s just a domestic dispute” — “Just wait it out”, they all told him. They never came back.
He hired lawyers and police. He had to file a Custody Case so there are orders. But he had to serve those orders because the law mandates Due Process. But he couldn’t find her.
30 years later, the 2 girls, who are now in their mid-30’s, are discovered, living in Texas with their mom, who now has a new name, Liana Waldberg.
So what do I think of all this?
The first thing that comes up in my brain (after 20 years of family law) is this kinda of crap just does NOT happen to normal families. One does NOT leave with babies in the middle of the night! Whenever this comes up – and believe me, it has come up in my daily life, “Oh, I was traveling for weeks, and then I came home to a empty house with a process server – because HE took my baby and moved out!”…. I scratch my head because it is simply not the easiest thing to LEAVE when you have 2 babies! Do NOT treat your spouse like crap!! There are consequences!! Yes, be a decent human being. No cheating. No lying. No abusing your spouse. No staying out late to drink and party on a yacht and have sex with other people. That’s rule #1.
Then after I settle down in my disbelief that people’s behaviors are just appalling, I begin to think like a lawyer. If I were HIM, I would immediately file a police report. I would file a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Thereafter I would file a Petition for Custody and Support and go in immediately ex parte to obtain custody orders. Then I would get what are called “3130 orders”.
There is a HOST of legal things I would do.
One complicating factor is that this couple was NOT in the process of divorce. It wasn’t technically a “custody battle”. She actually just took off. I actually feel an overwhelming sense of sadness for her. Imagine how profoundly desperate she must have felt to take 2 babies and escape on the run. I physically would never have the strength to do this. Psychologically, I would be crushed. Then she raised them on her own. I am not justifying her actions, which are criminal. Just sad.
But after 30 years of being separated, as a father, I think i would do everything in my power to reach them – email them – go to them, seek reunification therapy and be reunited.
I am not sure what will happen to these girls now. They are adults, probably with families of their own. I would think both of them need counseling to be able to connect with this stranger who is their “father”.
Mr. Yates does not want to prosecute Mrs. Yates. He said as long as she didn’t hurt them, he is ok.
Interestingly enough, a 2009 Texas Court Order which changed Elaine Yates’ name to Liana Walberg had listed both her maiden and married names. You would figure every name change would be inserted into a database and communicated to the agencies to handle all of this.
My heart bleeds for these people. I pray every night for maturity and selflessness. I think that’s the best way to describe what i see lacking every day in my cases.