DP Family, Family in Court: Custody

The Custody Battle Begins

Dr. Phil and Erin chat before Erin goes in front of a judge to present the e-mail and photos of Leilah with bruises. "She had no right to deny Alex to her child when she came back, without the court's intervention," he explains.

In their phone conversation, Erin tells Dr. Phil that her plan is to get temporary emergency custody of Nathan and Leilah, so she has legal rights to have them in her custody.

"What you basically want to do here is explain to this judge, ‘I've got one goal in mind here and that's to minimize the chaos and minimize the trauma, and what I'm asking for is temporary. Can we just allow these children to sleep in their own beds?'" Dr. Phil tells Erin.

"I can do that," she says.


Chris learned of the emergency temporary custody hearing and decided that he is going to fight for Leilah as well. Before he goes to court, Dr. Phil speaks with him.

"My plan this morning is hopefully for a peaceful conclusion, and I can get to be a father to my daughter," Chris tells Dr. Phil. "Her mother is obviously not capable of raising her on her own."

[AD]"What we have to look at is what's in the best interest of the kids long-term, and let me just tell you right straight-up, I believe a father being in their child's life in a major way is extremely important," Dr. Phil says. "[Alex] certainly is not in a position, in my view, to be taking care of either one of the children right now. If the judge handed you the child today, are you equipped to provide her a good and stable environment?"

"One hundred percent," Chris replies. He says he would take care of Leilah at his mother's house. "I'm not trying to take Leilah from Erin. I want to work with Erin. I want to come to a compromise."

After Erin and Chris face the judge, Chris updates Dr. Phil.

"As of now, the maternal grandmother, who is Erin, has primary custody of both Leilah and Nathan," he says. "The judge has ordered a home study of my home, and if everything turns good, there's a good chance we're going to get primary custody until all of this is over." He adds that he is allowed unsupervised visitation.

"You don't have any problem with Erin and Marty seeing the child?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]Chris says they have a problem with him having his daughter. "On the way out, Erin was very rude to me. At one point, she actually poked me in the chest," he explains. "I want her to help me raise my daughter, but that's my daughter."

Dr. Phil points out that while Chris was in jail, Erin made sure Leilah was well taken care of.

"My only goal in life is to make my daughter a better person and to raise my daughter to be somebody better than me," Chris says.

Dr. Phil reminds Chris that his track record isn't great, and it's going to take time to make changes in his life.

Dr. Phil is joined onstage by Chris, and he asks him what he believes is Erin's hidden agenda.

"I feel that she is trying to raise both Leilah and Nathan," Chris says.

Dr. Phil tells Chris that now that he's out of jail, he must establish his life, which takes time. "What I want to see is everybody stop this turf war and say, ‘Can we all come together and provide an extended family for this child, where it works out?'"

[AD]Erin responds. "I'm not going to put Alexandra totally put of the picture," she says, adding that she wants her daughter to be healthy. "I know she can care for these children. She and Chris can parent together." She explains that because Leilah has no relationship with Chris, she believes it's important for them to develop one slowly.

Dr. Phil asks Erin, "What's your understanding about why Alex didn't show up at this hearing?"

"Alexandra had a warrant out for her arrest for a felony battery, and Alexandra emphatically stated that it was not her. It was someone else," she says. "She did not want to show up in court, because they would have arrested her, and she would not have been able to fight for her daughter."

Dr. Phil asks Erin why she feels Leilah is afraid of men.

"She screams, and clings to me and refuses to even make eye contact with men at all," she says.

Chris says he hasn't seen Leilah much since he's been out of jail, but his daughter does give him kisses, although she doesn't allow him to hold her.

Dr. Phil comments that Erin's theory is her granddaughter has been mistreated by a male. "Your concern is to just turn the baby over to Chris, he's not really going raise her, that it's going to be his mother," he says to Erin.

[AD]She agrees. "I know that he tells us he wants to do everything right and get everything right with his daughter, and I really hope that he can do that," she says. "However, at this point, he's living at home with his mom and his stepfather, under their roof, and his brother lives there as well, and that's a lot of people in a little house."

"There comes a point where we have to stop fighting and start coalescing and make sure everybody is not just trying to get their point across, but saying, ‘Let's see how we can co-opt this thing and make sure that we can maintain stability for these children,'" Dr. Phil says.