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New York Daily News : Lask Defends Child Custody Relocation


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Good Life Turns Bad In Child Custody War Mom And Daughter Living In Limbo

Sunday, October 10, 2004

JANICE VEGA THOUGHT she had provided her daughter with everything a child could ever dream of: a loving family, a beautiful suburban home, a fine private school.
But amid a long and nasty custody battle, a ruling by a Family Court referee - which could be stayed by a judge on Tuesday - took it all away and threw both their lives into limbo.
After living with her husband in Virginia for the past three years, Vega, 42, a native Brooklynite and a former Fire Department employee, was ordered to come back to New York.
And she had to return with her 6-year-old daughter from a previous relationship - or lose custody of the child.
"I'm hurting. I miss my family," Vega said. "My daughter is hurting."
The Queens Family Court order granted a motion by the girl's father, Jeffrey Pollack, who complained that his daughter arrived tired for her visits.
Referee Amy Rood ruled in mid-August that the girl must move back to New York and enroll in a school here.
"The Family Court order says nothing about the child's best interest," said Vega's lawyer, Susan Chana Lask.
Vega's petition for a stay of the ruling will be considered Tuesday at the Appellate Division in Brooklyn. Another hearing in Family Court is scheduled in 10 days.
Pollack's lawyer, Alan Cabelly, declined to comment, citing the ongoing proceedings. He only said that the referee's order is not unusual and emphasized that there are two sides in every such case.
But Vega agreed to tell her story, though she's barred from discussing the case directly. The names of her daughter and husband were withheld for privacy reasons.
She grew up in East New York and worked hard to move up to a better future, working as an emergency medical technician for 13 years. She responded to the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001.
In 1997, she met Pollack over the Internet, and the two had a nine-month relationship, which ended before Vega found out she was pregnant.
Pollack, 49, of Forest Hills is single and works for Time Warner Cable. He has paid child support and has a close bond with his daughter, said Vega's attorney.
Ever since Vega met and married another man four years ago, she and Pollack have been embroiled in an ugly, complicated, open-ended legal fight.
The latest decision, Lask said, forces her client to make a heartbreaking choice: between her daughter and her husband.
"It's mean," Vega said of the ruling. "I wasn't given another option, and there are other options."
For a month now, she has been sleeping on the couch at her mother's railroad flat in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Her daughter stays in the dining room, which Vega redecorated. The girl started first grade in a public school instead of the private Jewish school she was registered for.
Vega said her little girl cries every day. Her eyes filled with tears, too, whenever she spoke of her daughter.
"She wants her room, she wants her toys. She misses her stepsister and brother," Vega said.
Strangely, the girl doesn't even see more of her dad. According to the Family Court's terms, the visit periods with Pollack have been slightly reduced since the move.
"It doesn't make any sense," Lask said.