Fatoumata Niang

Fatoumata Niang and her ex-husband were married less than a year before separating. Originally from Senegal, Ms. Niang had limited English proficiency while her ex-husband is well-educated with a professional career. Their marriage was rife with abuse as Ms. Niang’s ex-husband consistently questioned her intelligence, controlled her finances and social life, and physically abused her.

After Ms. Niang became pregnant, her ex-husband’s behavior worsened. He never attended a prenatal appointment with her and attempted to postpone her labor induction because of his work schedule, even as the doctor warned that a delay posed a significant risk to Ms. Niang’s life and the life of their child.

Enter Maryam Casbarro of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who agreed to represent Ms. Niang in the divorce case, and the child support and custody battle of their eight-month-old baby. Maryam was steadfast in her support of Ms. Niang, even briefly returning from parental leave so she could represent Ms. Niang at trial.

“That’s why I’m here smiling.”

Both Maryam and Ms. Niang’s resilience paid off. The judge granted a divorce and awarded child support and custody on terms that were quite favorable to Ms. Niang. While both parties have joint physical and legal custody of their child, Ms. Niang has tie-breaking authority in the event of an impasse on matters relating to childcare, education, or healthcare.

In spite of the chaos, Ms. Niang has taken control of her destiny. As Maryam put it, “From start to finish, I remember when I met Fatou she hardly spoke English, and now she’s enrolled in college, she’s paying all her bills, she’s no longer dependent on her husband. She’s a leader in her community.”

**If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and needs help, contact DC SAFE or call Legal Aid at (202) 628-1161 for assistance.

Get Help 24/7 from the National Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-656-4673**

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