Alyssa herself was the key player. At one point, according to Bill, she said, “I love both of my parents. I can’t make a decision. I don’t know what to do.”

“Everyone ,” he said, “was crying.”

Bill agreed that it was best for Alyssa to remain in Hawaii. Because he was paying child support, he couldn’t afford multiple yearly airfares to bring her to Chicago, so he and Andrea devised a plan to share that cost without overburdening either of them. By the end of the day, an agreement was printed out and signed. “Not legal language,” said Elizabeth, “but their language. Their spirit and their language and their content.”

A few days later, Bill called her. “He had just dropped his daughter off at the airport — it was the best visit they’d had in ages. He wanted to send pictures to Judge Mills of Alyssa on a fire truck.”

And four years later, Bill is still overflowing with gratitude for the circle that saved his relationship with his daughter and allowed her to prosper. She’s an A-student in Hawaii; in Chicago, she’d been struggling. Dad’s heart bursts with joy. It’s not about custody. “It’s all about her,” he said.

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