ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) --- Stephanie Link has been fighting for years to try and regain primary custody of her daughter. Since 2018, News 4 Investigates has followed her effort to challenge the family court system; a challenge made more difficult because she's having to fight it in two states.
“I was between both places. I was between Missouri and Illinois," Link said. "I was going back and forth."
When Link left her daughter’s father in 2014, they lived in Illinois. She then moved back to St. Charles County where the initial child custody case was filed. She was initially awarded primary custody, but that changed as the process went on.
Link admits that during her initial custody fight she was not in the best mental state due to trauma from a previous abusive relationship. “I was diagnosed with PTSD because of what I went through,” she said.
Her daughter's father now has primary custody and she gets to see her daughter four days a month. While she continues to fight for a different arrangement, she made other big changes in her life: She is now an advocate for others going through similar trauma.
Link is now a Violence and Crisis Intervention Specialist with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. As she describes it, “I speak up for children and women victims of violence. That's my job now.” She now assists all police departments in Lincoln County, and she was accepted to receive specialized training under a program with the FBI. That training is planned for this summer.
While her life is in a quite different place right now compared to a few years ago, she says she would not be where she is today without the help of another mother who dealt with tragedy in her own life. When she was at her lowest, Link started volunteering with the Megan Meier Foundation. That Foundation was founded by Tina Meier in 2007 after the suicide of her teenage daughter due to cyber bullying.
Meier talked about when she first met Link saying, “she was really struggling and I think our connection happened because I'm a mom and I lost my daughter.”
While Link continues to fight for what she considers a more equitable custody arrangement and dealing with the family courts in two states, she says she will not stop fighting for other families going through trauma. “I just want to raise awareness that this stuff exists in our communities everywhere,” she said.
If you or someone you may know is a victim of domestic assault, or for more information on helping families after violence, contact Stephanie Link at firstname.lastname@example.org