2011 – The Custody Dispute

by Kristine Erickson

Ever since the Oregonian exposed Luke Heimlich’s juvenile record in June 2017, he has been engulfed by an unrelenting tidal wave of condemnation. Much of the reporting and almost all the social media commentary have been based on incomplete, misleading, and/or outright false information.

I don’t know how a human being can survive what Luke has been subjected to. The past year has demonstrated that the world is more heartless than I could have imagined and that Luke Heimlich is the most courageous person I have ever known.

Enough is enough. It’s time to go back to the beginning and outline the facts that can be established based on public records and/or multiple witnesses.

In the county where Luke’s family resides, divorce and custody documents are public records that can be accessed online. The following facts are supported by those records, which can be located with a simple Google search. I will refrain from providing the internet link, because the documents reveal the children’s names. (Never mind that the June 2017 Oregonian story exposed the daughter’s identity so effectively that she was immediately questioned by some kids in school.)

This is where the story begins. I will outline the events of later years on subsequent pages.


Luke’s oldest brother divorced his wife. The divorce was finalized in December. There are two children, a son and daughter, and the parties agreed to a parenting plan that included 4 days a week residing with the father and 3 days with the mother. School holidays were to be split between the parents. Based on higher earnings, the father was ordered to make child support payments to the mother.


In February or March, the ex-wife moved from Washington to California, leaving both children with their father. Subsequent court documents indicate she made weekend visits to the children once or twice a month during the rest of the year.


The father petitioned the court to grant him primary custody, and he asked for his child support payments to be eliminated. He attached a parenting plan that called for the children to live with him full-time during the school year and divide school holidays between the parents. The plan allowed for weekend visits from the mother twice a month.


The mother submitted her response, which is difficult to interpret. It consists of a form with checkboxes to indicate whether she admitted or denied the allegations in the 22 subsections of her ex-husband’s petition. The mother also checked a box requesting that the father’s petition be dismissed. She attached a proposed residential schedule calling for the children to live with her during the school year and split holidays between the parents.

MARCH 2011

The father submitted his reply to the mother’s response. He asked the court to deny her request for the children to reside with her, and he offered to make support payments at a reduced amount to help cover his ex-wife’s travel costs. The court subsequently issued an order approving the father’s plan on a temporary basis.

APRIL 2011

The court scheduled a settlement conference for a date in September and notified both parties.

MAY 2011

The father submitted a list of primary witnesses who would testify in support of his petition. The list includes his father and mother, as well as one of his sisters and her husband. There is no record of a witness list from the mother.


The court issued an order modifying custody and approving the father’s parenting plan. The mother apparently capitulated. The court order bears her approval signature, which is dated in July.

The settlement conference scheduled for September was subsequently cancelled. The public record also shows a trial date scheduled for October, and it was cancelled.


Both children went to stay with their mother during the school holiday. After that visit, the mother told her ex-husband their daughter had described being molested by Luke.

According to media reports, the timing of the alleged abuse progressively morphed from one date span in 2011 to multiple date spans 2009-2011, and finally to a single incident during a new date span stated in Luke’s eventual plea agreement: February to December 2011. There are no public records I can use to verify this information.

The May 2018 Sports Illustrated cover story about Luke includes this statement:  “The mother insists that a custody dispute had no bearing on the accusations, saying that she never raised concerns about Luke and her daughter in custody proceedings.” The mother’s statement is incompatible with the timeline of events.

The basis for the father’s January 2011 petition for custody was articulated in a sentence that starts as follows:  “The children have been integrated primarily into my family…”

We will never know what actually happened during the girl’s holiday stay with her mother at the end of 2011, but one thing is perfectly clear. That was the end of the “integrated” Heimlich family.