July 8, 2003

Attorney of record for Susan Navarro
2938 Adeline Street Oakland, CA 94608
510.832.7117 (telephone)
510.834.3301 (facsimile)


After Seven Years of Legal Limbo in California Courts,
Family Seeks New Life in Arizona

Pleasanton, California -- A San Francisco Bay area mother who has been prevented by litigation from leaving California for more than seven years in order to keep her children closer to her ex-husband has this week moved her family to Mesa, Arizona.

Their move is likely to cause shock waves in California and across the nation.

The children's father, Gary LaMusga, and many other noncustodial parents believe that children should remain near them, even if their relationships with the children are poor and staying harms the children and custodial households. Courts also put off making decisions in relocation cases hoping that custodial parents will give up their legally protected plans to move (for example, when job offers expire) rather than risk judicial anger.

Seven years after Susan Navarro first asked the California courts to permit her to start a new life outside California, she decided she could wait no longer. With her are her new husband, Todd Navarro, her sons Garrett LaMusga, 11, and Devlen LaMusga, 9, and her daughter, Aisling Navarro, 3.

Navarro indicated that her decision was born out of frustration with the legal limbo. "This legal nightmare has shaped and defined their entire childhood," Navarro said.

In Sept. 2002, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which Navarro's ex-husband challenges a unanimous Court of Appeal decision that Navarro is entitled to decide where the boys will live. Some experts and child advocates fear the high court may use the Navarro-LaMusga case to cut back or reverse its landmark 1996 decision, In re Marriage of Burgess. Such a result would change the balance of power in divorce court by limiting the primary caregiver's ability to decide what is best for the children.

Since mothers are given primary custody in over 60 percent of California cases, court battles over custody issues have turned into a gender-divided, state-wide debate. Navarro says she simply needs the courts to make timely decisions in the best interests of her children's welfare. Her request made in February 2001 to increase a 1996 child support order will not receive a court hearing until January 2004; similarly, her motion for a revised visitation schedule so that her ex-husband can have meaningful visitation with the children after they have moved to Arizona has been pending since September 2002 but has not yet been heard by the court.

"I'm just trying to do what's best for my children," Navarro explained. "They are being hurt more than helped by this legal process."


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Additional Contacts - Authors of Amici Curiae Briefs:

(for Dr. Judith Wallerstein and other mental health experts)
1949 5th Street, Suite 101, Davis, CA 95616

(for Prof. Herma Hill Kay and other law professors)
School of Law, University of California, Davis CA 95616

(for California Women's Law Center and other organizations)
3460 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1102, Los Angeles, CA 90010
213.637.9900 ext. 207

(for Margaret Gannon, Esq. and other poverty lawyers)
1390 Market Street #818, San Francisco, CA 94102
415.863.5300 ext. 12