DALLAS-The collaboration between Ike Vanden Eykel and Larry Upshaw was short-lived but completely successful. And both credit an article in D Magazine for bringing them together.
Vanden Eykel is a highly regarded young family lawyer who figured prominently in Ruth Miller Fitzgibbons’ story on the plight of the father in custody battles [“Fighting For Their Lives,” June 1984].
Upshaw, the owner of a Dallas public relations firm, decided to seek custody of his 6-year-old son, Corby, when his ex-wife announced that she was moving to another city. As he began to research the subject, Upshaw was frustrated to find that most of the available information was out of date or didn’t apply under Texas law. And the attorneys he spoke with seemed to understand extraordinary fees more than the vagaries of this sensitive issue.
“The only intelligent things these guys said were lifted verbatim from the D piece,” Upshaw says. “That story made me realize my case was winnable, if I worked hard and hired a good attorney. From the way Ike was presented in the article, I could tell that he was the right man.”
Once on the job, Vanden Ey-kel worked during a five-month period to fashion a case that may have a lasting effect on the entire subject of child custody. On January 11, a jury of eight women and four men awarded custody of Corby Upshaw to his father.
“Usually you need a smoking gun-drugs, sex, some kind of gross impropriety-to convince a jury to overturn mother custody,” he said. “We didn’t have that. We never even said Mrs. Upshaw was a bad mother. For the most part, our case was based on the child’s educational needs and psychological profile and Mr. Upshaw’s worthiness as a father.”
Vanden Eykel says, “For the first time in the 11 years I’ve been fighting for custody, that’s exactly how the jury decided. Believe me, this is a landmark step for daddies seeking custody.”