Cara Kobzeff spent $22,000 in just 45 days to fight for custody of her sister’s children
Life can change in an instant.
Until a couple of years ago, 38-year old Cara Kobzeff was an affluent jetsetter. As a travel agent in Los Angeles, she traveled to exotic destinations like Brazil, Italy and Tahiti—flying first class, staying in 5-star hotels, dining at Michelin-starred restaurants. When she wasn’t working, she was hanging out with girlfriends, dating and making plans on a whim.
That all changed last fall when Kobzeff began fighting for custody of her five-year-old niece Ana and her four-year-old nephew Eli. They were put in foster care because their mother, Kobzeff’s younger sister Kayla, was living on the streets after stints in jail for theft and a drug problem, the children’s father was in jail and there was no other family to care for the children.
“I spent $22,000 in 45 days just to keep my niece and nephew under my roof, Kobzeff, tells Moneyish of her legal fees. While the average custody battle ranges from $3,000 to $6,000 dollars, according to LegalMatch, Kobzeff’s case was more complicated, which led to a longer and more complex court battle — and the five-figure pricetag.
Plus, Kobzeff — who had to change jobs because she couldn’t travel as much now that she’s raising her niece and nephew — spends $2,040 every month on daycare and $2,200 on rent for a three-bedroom home, leaving her no spare funds for the things she used to enjoy.
“I used to get my nails done every two weeks and have my grey hair dyed once a month, but now that’s more like once every three months,” Kobzeff tells Moneyish. She let her gym membership go, she doesn’t have cable anymore and though she’d prefer to buy organic produce for the kids—it’s out of her price range. “We started growing our own tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini and it gives the kids something to help me with,” says Kobzeff. “I’ve nearly broken the bank,” she says of all the expenses.
Knowing she was dealing with a slew of personal issues and limited funds, Kobzeff’s coworkers collected money to help with her moving costs and some friends threw her a baby shower and gave her car seats, gift cards and parenting tips.
With the amount of emotional instability her niece and nephew have had to endure, Kobzeff tries to keep their day-to-day schedules as predictable as possible. Her own lifestyle, however, has shifted tremendously, and that change has been difficult for her to accept. “I cry almost every day,” she says. “I’ve given up everything—I have no time to date and I’ve gained a ton of weight since last November. With all of this drama, why would anyone even want to be romantically involved with me,” Kobzeff remarks.
While she loves her niece and nephew more than anything, Kobzeff never planned to have children of her own and admits that becoming a mom overnight has her feeling like she’s constantly navigating unchartered waters. “I wasn’t prepared for this. I didn’t have nine months to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, nor did I ever take any parenting classes,” she says.
For now, there’s a small light at the end of her long and twisted tunnel. While her business travel has come to a halt because she doesn’t have a spouse or anyone she can leave the kids with, Kobzeff says she just applied for passports for the kids and her belated Mother’s Day present to herself is that she’s taking them on vacation to Jamaica—using frequent flier miles and reduced travel agent rates.
The next step for Kobzeff is to begin the adoption process—another lengthy and costly endeavor that will solidify her role and ensure the brightest futures possible for Ana and Eli. But despite the costs and stress, she says, she’d do it all again: “At the end of a long day when I pick them up and they hug me and squeal with excitement—I know it’s all worth it.”
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