When Yakima Marks and Derrick Green divorced in 2017, Marks moved back to Birmingham with their son, Caleb, who was six years old at the time. In 2018, Green filed for custody of Caleb in the 3rd Circuit Court in Nashville. Judge Phillip Robinson issued the temporary order.
“The judge signed that order without me ever going to court or knowing anything about it…and that’s how my son ended up with his father,” Marks said.
It took three years but Marks convinced Robinson to void Green’s temporary custody and change the parenting plan so Marks has Caleb every other weekend and extended time in the summer.
She isn’t happy with that. Marks appealed her case and said she will take it all the way to the Supreme Court if she has to. “I had full custody of my son and I want that back,” she said.
Marks said when she had Caleb he was a straight A student, never missed a day of school, got all of his immunizations, and was even in the news for a science project he did. The “temporary” custody Robinson gave Green has lasted a full third of Caleb’s life.
“I’d never been to the court system before–never a day in my life– until all of this happened which was a shocker to me. I didn’t know the time that it takes to do motions and get things going,” she said.
Marks couldn’t afford a lawyer so she represented herself. Judge Robinson told her she wouldn’t be able to do it. She proved him wrong.
“I did this on my own. I wrote multiple motions, I petitioned the court. I went in front of him shaking and nervous. I was scared for my life. This was my life and the life of my son on the line,” she recalled.
She wouldn’t want any other mother to go through what she has been through in the court system. Marks said judges get information, some of it accurate, some not, and make decisions without really knowing what impact their decisions will have on the daily lives of people who are involved.
“It’s been a long hard battle but facing off against Judge Robinson has not been all bad. He was impressed with the motions I filed and said so. He has inspired me to pursue a credential in public advocacy at Harvard University.”
“This is an election time. The local citizens of Nashville, Tennessee need to research who they are going to be putting on these benches. They need to understand what previous experience they’ve had. They need to understand how they are involved in the community. They need to understand what are these judges talking about when it comes to restorative justice. They need to research these judges and go to the polls,” she said.