Grandmother vs. Mother: story

Battle over a Boy

"My mom is very controlling, manipulative, insane " like someone with schizophrenia " and overbearing. My mom has a need to control everything," says 25-year-old Nicole.  

"My daughter is a pathological liar, deceiving, conning, unstable, unfit mother," says Barbara. "Nicole needs mental help and will do whatever it takes to get what she wants."


Mother and daughter are currently locked in a bitter custody battle over Nicole's 6-year-old son, Ethan.


"Since Ethan was born, I have fulfilled every basic need that a mother would normally provide for their child," Barbara says. "I brought food, I brought over diapers, I brought over clothes. I brought over everything the child needed. I took care of him physically and emotionally." 


"I definitely did need some help. It was a little bit overwhelming, but that doesn't mean that she can turn around later and throw it in my face," Nicole says. "In the end, she used it against me."


Two years ago, Ethan needed surgery. Nicole didn't have health insurance, so she signed what she believed to be was a temporary custody agreement, which would allow for Ethan to be covered by her parents' insurance policy.


[AD]"I showed the document to the attorney. He said, ‘This document is damaging. It has no date on it, therefore it's not temporary,'" Nicole explains. "She deliberately tricked me. I feel as though it was my mom's plan to have full custody."


"I did not trick Nicole. She knew exactly what she was signing," Barbara says. "She had the papers to read at least a couple of weeks before she signed them."

"I didn't read through the document when I signed it, because I just assumed what my parents were saying was true," Nicole says. "I definitely feel like my mom stole my son away from me."

Barbara says Nicole broke the law in an effort to regain custody of Ethan. "Nicole committed fraud to get her son back," she explains. "Nicole took a signature page from a document we had previously signed, attached it to the fraudulent document, then submitted that to the courts as a document that we signed."


"This claim that this document is fraudulent is completely ridiculous because we went to mediation," Nicole says. "My parents did agree to relinquish custody to me, and that order was signed by them, entered and signed by the judges."


"Nicole kept changing the agreement. The mediation agreement we started out with was far from the agreement that got filed in the courthouse," Barbara says. "Almost the very next day after the document was filed, Nicole fled with Ethan ... She left like a thief in the night with my grandson."


"My parents were aware that we were planning on moving back to Oregon," Nicole says.


[AD]Barbara followed Nicole across the country. When she arrived in Oregon, she saw firsthand the state of Nicole's living arrangement and learned that her grandson was not performing at his age level.  


"I hired a private investigator. I found that Nicole had been very negligent. Ethan was in a very unstable situation," Barbara reveals. "Her duplex smelled of urine. Ethan was not attending school on a regular basis. I found Ethan unable to even recite the full alphabet, unable to count to 20. Ethan had the language skills of a 4-year-old. He is 6. I felt like I had enough evidence to show the court that he is in harm's way." Barbara filed a motion and regained custody of Ethan. 


Nicole maintains, "I've done nothing to harm my child."

Mother and daughter haven't seen each other in four months. They join Dr. Phil onstage.


"I'm doing this because I want what's in the best interest of this child," Dr. Phil tells the women. He repeats many of the statements Barbara and Nicole have said about the other. "Is this child a battleground for your other problems, or are we really trying to figure out what's in the best interest of this child?"

"I'm trying to figure out what's in the best interest of the child," Nicole says.

"Do you agree that you've had trouble raising Ethan during the times that you've had him?" Dr. Phil asks her.

"I wouldn't say that I've had trouble raising him. I would say that I've definitely had some times where I needed some additional help," she says.


Dr. Phil says he believes children should live with their biological parents if that home is a safe place. "I think that's the natural order of things. I think to take a child away from a biological parent is a huge thing," he explains. "That's my presumption, unless and until somebody shows me that that biological parent is not doing their job."

Nicole maintains that she was a good mother.

[AD]"The court said you weren't doing your job," Dr. Phil points out.

"That's because I never went to court," she replies.

"If this is my child and people are holding hearings about my child, I'm going to be front and center on my hind legs talking about what I want and don't want," Dr. Phil says. He asks Nicole why she didn't attend the hearing.

"I wasn't served at the current address that I lived at, so I wasn't aware that it was going on," she says.

Barbara says she asked her daughter numerous times for her address, but Nicole never provided her with a current one.

Dr. Phil reads the court findings. "'The minor child is exposed to a substantial risk of bodily harm as the result of defendants neglecting his medical condition, and being removed from the state of North Carolina as a result of fraudulent conduct on the part of the defendants,'" he reads.

Nicole denies defrauding the court.

[AD]Dr. Phil points out that the court ruling states that Nicole perpetrated a fraud on her mother and the court by pairing a signature page from a previous filing with a new document which declares that her parents agreed to return custody of Ethan. "Did you substitute the signature page to a different document?" Dr. Phil asks.


"No, I did not. I had no reason to do so," she says.

Barbara interjects, "She had every reason to do so, and she even admitted it to her dad when she called from the road."