Transferring assets

Two teens are shuttled back and forth across the country as their mother and father (belatedly) fight over who gets to keep them

"I've never felt so alone," she said during one break. "They've kept all my friends out. They made them witnesses in the case. I just want it to be over. I just want to be back at home with my children -- to have our lives back."

However, Jim's attorneys needed to do more than just skewer the mother on the witness stand. For that, they called court-appointed psychologist Kit Harrison, who began calling Cole, the father's attorney, by his first name.

Harrison referred at one point to Jared and Krystal as "feral-like" and said they had extremely close bonds by virtue of the parental split and the fact they were in the same grade in school. "Both appear to have mastered the youthful art of parental manipulation and splitting," his reported stated. Their stubbornness and rigidity "helped them cope with a decade of emotional and behavioral self-reliance," he said.

Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.
David Hollenbach
Krystal and Jared during happier times in Colorado.

The psychologist had sparred during sessions with Theresa, and clearly came away as a big fan of the father. He argued that the children were angry at Jim because he was the one who would try to assert control, rather than because he pursued business over being a father. Jim seems to "under appreciate the time commitment" needed for the kids, while Theresa had good rapport with "no skills in managing kids."

Harrison's report chalked up the mother's moves to Colorado and California as the result of stress and failures. There were fantasies in her tendency to relocate and keep "life in a flux." The children follow "out of loyalty and a lack of alternative," his report said.

Harrison accused her of strongly alienating the children against Jim. He blasted her for wanting to involve them in the litigation. Indeed, the biggest worry Jim's attorneys appeared to have was in trying to convince Warne to keep the kids from testifying, even on limited matters. The same side that was arguing that Jared needed more responsibility was also arguing that a 17-year-old shouldn't be heard about who he wants to live with. Theresa told of including the kids in all family decisions, but apparently their decision in this custody fight wasn't the one that their father wanted to hear.

In the cross-examination, Harrison was asked about having the kids seized in California -- if a girl in the sensitive teen years might be affected by having police take her away in front of her classmates in California.

"It could thrust her to the top of popularity out there," Harrison replied with a quick laugh. This time, even the sophisticated set in the courtroom didn't laugh with him.

For two days, jurors in the custody trial had an up-close look at the stability -- or instability -- of Theresa. And, for five minutes, they got to examine her ex-husband on the witness stand. While waiting for Harrison to arrive, Jim Crane took the jury through a quick summary of his situation: arriving in Houston poor; divorcing poor, a happy remarriage and horror at having to deal with an ex who refused to communicate and was ruining his kids.

He took jurors through the adopted nicknames. The skinny Jared's known as "Bone" and the father's Big Jim. Or just Jimbo.

His testimony was mostly a matter-of-fact rendition of his case. No dramatic or emotional accounts had been delivered by the time Harrison arrived to replace him on the witness stand.

But this tough chief executive of Global Eagle stepped down with tears. He never came close to actually crying, but he wiped and dabbed at his watering eyes, as if he was embarrassed that he showed tears -- or couldn't outright cry. Franci looked at him and the tips of her ears turned a bright red. Then her own ducts opened.

By that afternoon, the case of Crane vs. Crane concluded.

Warne dismissed jurors and listened to as much of an agreement as the two warring parents could muster. Basically Jared would finish his spring semester at the private Houston school, then relocate back to Boulder to live with an adult to be approved by Jim. Jared would be under no legal obligation to continue that arrangement after his 18th birthday in December.

When parental common sense gets translated into official legal edicts, it is always accompanied by a clumsiness. Lawyers awkwardly tried to recite a maze of provisions about curfews and visitations and the consequences of rising or falling grade-point averages for Jared. Theresa, in her longstanding contempt of court charge involved in moving the kids, was fined $4,000 -- the cost to Jim for the private detective to track her down.

Attorney Joan Jenkins, representing the children in the case, had argued strongly to jurors that however "flaky" Theresa was, the kids belonged with her. "The woman makes bad judgment calls. But the kids see her as nurturing -- as the only real constant they've had. They deserve to be with her."

Jared had no circle of friends in Houston, just a busy father to be with him at times, Jenkins pointed out. Left here, she said, "Jared doesn't have a life." But Jenkins and Geiger say the settlement was best. Jurors would have decided custody -- Warne was the one to determine more relevant issues; educational plans, custody and visitation. While advocating the mother's position, Jenkins faults both parents.

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