More than 20 years later, lessons still present from Elian Gonzalez case and fathers’ rights
Article provided by Jeffrey L. Paustian
We live in a digital age. We know social media and other platforms can impact cases. Previous experience has helped us learn how to navigate the media and online platforms. One example that provided important lessons on how to build a successful case even when the media has taken a stance against your side recently celebrated over twenty years of success.
The case began with tragedy when a mother took her young son from Cuba to the United States. She left Cuba with her boyfriend and a group who were fleeing the country on a makeshift boat. The boat did not make it to Florida, as intended. Something happened along the way. The boat fell apart, sinking and leaving many who attempted to flee to drown in the dangerous waters that separate Cuba from the United States. The young boy’s mother was among those who died during this crossing.
Somehow the child survived.
A group of fishermen saved the young boy, almost 6 years of age at the time. These fishermen rescued Elian Gonzalez on Thanksgiving Day in 1999 and helped him find relatives in Miami.
While the boy was going through this ordeal, his father was in their home country. Once notified of his child’s rescue, he fought for the return of his son. A family member asked attorney Jeffery Leving to see if he could help reunite father and son. Leving agreed, strongly feeling that Elian’s interests were best served by a life with his father.
The legal team faced an uphill battle, going against family members in Miami who argued the child should receive political asylum and remain in the United States. The case brought substantial awareness to fathers’ rights worldwide and Jeffery M. Leving is credited with helping win an “un-winnable case.”
Why was the case unwinnable?
As touched on above, this case received unprecedented media attention. Tensions between Cuba and the United States ran high as family on either side fought for custody of the young boy. The story was featured in national and international news throughout the case’s progression.
Attorney Jeffery Leving was going against more than just the family trying to keep the child in the United States. He was also building a case against the media. At the time, the media was telling a story scholars later recognized was about more than just the custody battle at hand, but instead one tainted by the trajectories of international conflict.
Where is he now?
Jeffery M. Leving and his team helped win this unwinnable case, the court granted the father legal standing as the child’s father. The government reunited father and son, and Elian returned home to Cuba.
Elian Gonzalez’s story is one that tells the triumphs of father’s rights. Elian’s father was able to raise his son, and that son found success in life, graduating from a military academy in 2016 with a degree in industrial engineering. In 2020 Elian announced that he was expecting his first child and that he hopes he can raise his child half as well as he was raised by his own father — his words and goals are a testament to the profound impact a father’s presence can have on their children.
Jeffery M. Leving is the founder and president of The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., and co-authored the first real Illinois joint custody law and other laws. In addition to “How to Be a Good Divorced Dad,” he is the author of “Fathers’ Rights” and “Divorce Wars.” To learn more about Jeffery M. Leving and his latest court victories, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and view his videos on YouTube.