Rabecca says she’s locked in a bitter custody battle with her mother, Debra, who she claims tricked her into signing over legal guardianship of her 4-year-old daughter, Dezira. Debra insists that Rabecca willingly signed over guardianship — and claims that Dezira is better off with her. Can they find common ground before the courts make their decisions for them? This program contains strong sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.

Custody Battle

Rabecca says that three-and-a-half years ago, while she was suffering from postpartum depression, her mother, Debra, offered to help care for her daughter, Dezira. Rabecca explains that she initially signed a letter giving Debra temporary guardianship so she could take Dezira to doctors’ appointments. She claims that Debra then told her that the letter wasn't sufficient and asked for legal guardianship of Dezira — which Rabecca granted. "I started to get a little hesitant," Rebecca admits. "However, she said she was doing this in Dezira's best interest." 

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A few months later, Rabecca says that she was ready for Dezira to come home permanently. She says that when she told Debra, her mother was upset and asked to take Dezira for the night. Rabecca claims that Debra then hid Dezira from her for three months — and produced the guardianship papers when she contacted the police. She explains that Debra then sued her for custody of Dezira.

Debra claims that she only got involved with raising her granddaughter because Rabecca "rejected" Dezira. She says that Rabecca asked for help taking care of both Dezira and her older daughter, and then asked her to keep Dezira full time. She claims that Rabecca had no room set up for Dezira — and even threatened to leave her with a stranger if Debra didn’t take her. “She was adamant: ‘I can’t keep Dezira,’” Debra insists. She explains that she asked Rabecca to sign a letter granting her legal guardianship — and says that Rabecca did so willingly.

“You knowingly signed a paper signing legal guardianship of your child over to someone else. How is that a trick?”

Rebecca explains that she named her daughter Dezira after a child that Debra lost to SIDS. “I felt that it would be a good tribute to name my child after her,” she says, adding that Debra was there for Dezira’s birth and cut her umbilical cord. She continues, "It does seem surreal to me that Debra has such a significant attachment to only one of my daughters, who just happens to share a name of a child she had that passed away years before."

An Unfit Mother?

"Debra explained to me that Dezira said my oldest daughter put a stick inside Dezira," Rabecca reveals. "Debra was concerned because she considered that sexual abuse," she explains. Rabecca insists that she took Dezira to the doctor, and was told that there was no conclusive evidence of any trauma. "My gut tells me that these allegations are a foolish attempt to try to determine me unfit in supervising my children," she says.

"You think that there was molestation?" Dr. Phil asks Debra.

"I said sexual trauma," Debra replies. "I do not believe there was a molestation intent, I think it was simply that they were being unsupervised," she says. "I reported sexual trauma in October 2012 because that's what I considered it." She also alleges, "It was the third time that inappropriate touching had happened between the two girls."

"Produce me the reports ... There are none, Debra. It's all in your head."

Rabecca and Debra square off. "You took advantage of me. You are ruining my daughter."

Dr. Phil explains that he always asks his guests to provide a question that they want him to answer. "Neither one of you referenced how to determine or ascertain what is in the best interest of this child," he says. Instead, he says that both Rabecca and Debra asked questions about each other. Dr. Phil looks at his notes and comments, "What this says and does not say speaks volumes to me about both of you."

More to the Story?

Rabecca explains that her mother gave her up for adoption when she was 18 months old, and that she was placed back into the foster system at the age of 8. Rabecca says that she lived in more than 30 different foster homes and group homes before she was emancipated. She recalls that her case worker let her write to Debra when she was 11, and she finally got to meet her mother when she was 16 years old.

Rabecca claims that Debra has had six children, five of whom are living, and that she gave up all five for adoption, including a child that she had when she was 15 years old.

But Debra is adamant that she has only had five children, four of whom are alive. "She's grasping at straws about my childhood," Debra tells Dr. Phil when he presses her on the matter. "She's talking about my childhood, and there's no relevance." Debra admits that she gave up Rabecca and her two sisters for adoption, but insists that she raised her son.

"I'm curious if you're clinging to this child because you want a second chance."

Dr. Phil tells Debra that he thinks she's being unfairly judgmental by calling Rabecca an unfit mother. "I'm not sure you're really qualified to make that determination," he tells her. "At 18 months, you placed her for adoption," Dr. Phil continues. "She wound up in 30 foster homes across time where every attachment she had was breached ... The first link in that chain, lady, was you."

"I don't blame her for the things she has struggled with, because I know that it's because of her childhood," Debra says. "I know I contributed to that." She insists that she has tried to develop a relationship with Rabecca — and has also tried to help her with raising her children. "I had both of her children, and she refused to take Dezira back," Debra claims. "What was I doing with her children if it wasn't that I was trying to help her?" She adds, "I'm a survivor of my own stuff. I think you're really cutting me off and not giving me credit for the work that I've done and effort that I've made to try to help her as a mother."

"I think you're not being honest about one thing," Dr. Phil responds. "I think that when she asked for that baby back, you didn't give her back because you had fallen in love with that baby, and it broke your heart to think about her not being there with you."

"If you believe that she is a ridiculous, unfit, lying mother, why would you give back one of her children?”

"If you go to court, you ain't gonna like it." Dr. Phil offers help with mediation — will Rabecca and Debra accept?