Woman writes book about child custody

Published 9:41 am Friday, August 5, 2011

CAPRON—The age-old battle of child custody disputes is the topic of a Capron woman’s second book.

“Parental Kidnapping in America,” written Maureen Shelly Dabbagh, will be released by McFarland & Co. on Oct. 28.

“It’s an academic book about the phenomenon of custody disputes and why they become so nasty,” said Dabbagh, a certified mediator for the Virginia Supreme Court. “It has become an epidemic worldwide. If you have a child, grandchild, it touches the heart of everybody.”

The 300-page, paperback, which will be available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, presents more than 100 child custody cases.

“I think it will be of interest, with photos and real stories,” the 53-year-old said. “Nothing like this has ever been written. I wanted to do something that’s at a very basic level. I hope it’s informative. I hope it helps to bring a little understanding to families.”

She noted that 300 years ago, men traditionally got custody of the children, but by 1960, it was unheard for women not to get custody.

“And now we’re into this shared custody situation,” Dabbagh said. “The situations are getting nastier. You have grandparents going to court, asking for visitation, so this is a timely project.”

A partner and director of Accord Global in Richmond, Dabbagh works with families from mixed cultures in hopes of preventing international parental child kidnapping. Her company spans across borders, cultures, customs and faith issues within family law.

Several years ago, Dabbagh was deployed to Israel as one of three advisors actively involved in supporting the creation of a community dispute resolution process.

Dabbagh’s career provided her with the expertise to write the book, which took two years to complete.

Born in the Detroit area, she grew up in central Florida and moved to Southampton County from Virginia Beach 10 years ago.

“Our two youngest children were beginning school,” she said. “We needed to get back to small-town country.”

After an eight-month search, they purchased the estate of the late Sen. William Rawlings.

Dabbagh and her husband, Steven Shelly, are the parents of Emmalee, 17, a junior at Southampton High School, and Stasha, a 14-year-old who is home-schooled.