Natalie Khawam, the twin sister of Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and a peripheral player in the David Petraeus scandal, wants to clear her name and regain custody of her 4-year-son.
With those goals in mind, she has hired celebrity attorney Gloria Allred to help her appeal a 2011 judge's decision to award custody to her ex-husband after a bitter legal fight that included letters on Khawam's behalf from Petraeus and his wife, Holly.
"I contacted Gloria Allred to assist me and guide through a very difficult time for me and my family," Kwaham said today at a news conference in Washington, D.C., with Allred at her side.
The former general's involvement triggered media reports about the custody case, many accounts focusing on the judge's criticism of Khawam. Those reports have affected Khawan's chances of regaining custody and her career as a lawyer, Allred said.
"There have been many erroneous reports about what the family law court had decided and why it decided what it did," said Allred, who said she is taking part in the case to bring light to issues that are "extremely important to single mothers across the nation."
Among those issues were "refusal of the first court to allow attorneys to submit admissible evidence of domestic violence."
Allred said that because of "onerous, unfair and expensive restrictions placed on her by court," Khawam has been forced into bankruptcy "because of the legal fees and costs in complying with the court order and attempting to reverse it."
Little attention had been paid to Kwaham in the case, with media reports primarily focused on Kwaham's twin, whose complaints to the FBI about anonymous, threatening emails from Petraeus' mistress, Paula Broadwell, led to his resignation as CIA director.
Kelley and her husband, Scott, became friends with Petraeus and his wife when he was the head of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. The investigation led to questions about Kelley's relationship with the base.
Neither Allred nor Kwaham addressed any aspects of the investigation into Petraeus, including the emails.
Khawam moved in with the Kelleys at their Bayshore Boulevard mansion, taking her in when she and her son "needed refuge and protection." She claimed her husband beat her, forced her to watch child pornography and hired people to keep tabs on her, documents show.
However, Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz criticized Khawam for her behavior and said her "misrepresentations about virtually everything" would continue.
"Ms. Khawam appears to lack any appreciation or respect for the importance of honesty and integrity in her interactions with her family, employers and others with whom she comes in contact," he wrote in November 2011.
Not only did the judge in the case award her ex-husband custody, but he also told Khawam to pay his legal bills amounting to $350,000. Khawam filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April after racking up more than $3 million in debt, according to federal court records.
Petraeus and his Centcom successor, Gen. John Allen, took the unusual step of writing letters on Khawam's behalf during the custody battle.
Allen met Khawam, 37, when he was deputy commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, where they attended social functions. Petraeus said he met Khawam three years ago through Kelley.
Both wrote that she was a loving mother and asked the judge in the case to drop onerous visitation restrictions.
Allred did not address Allen's involvement, but she said the Petraeuses "loved Natalie's child and supported her through the toughest times in Natalie and her son's life."
"They did so when they learned she was unfairly portrayed and was a victim of injustice," Allred said.