Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I survived a day in court

We had a status hearing in court today, before Judge Irwin H. Joseph. We were supposed to have completed a psychological evaluation, but we hadn't even started. My wife's lawyer's paper also had some complaints about discovery, and about me getting the kids for two weeks this summer.

I was expecting to get blamed for any procedural problems. That seems to be the pattern. Whenever a lawyer opposes a party with no lawyer, the unrepresented party usually gets blamed. The judge tells him to get a lawyer, and to let the lawyers work out the procedure details.

As a result, lawyers routinely bully pro se parties. The lawyers break the procedural rules, and get away with it.

To my surprise, I didn't get blamed for anything. The judge commented that my status memo didn't use the standard form, but he seemed pleased that I filed one at all. He had been lecturing other lawyers for not filing status memos.

We had some discussion on choosing a psychologist. For mysterious reasons, we had a list of psychologists in the next county who had completed domestic violence and custody training in that county, and the judge wanted to choose from that list. We settled on a name.

Next was the scope of the psychological evaluation. In my papers, I characterized it as answering these questions:

1. Can we co-parent?
2. Are there any personality disorders? If so, are there solutions?
3. Are there any other psychological issues?

The judge accepted this characterization. He did not ask for a custody recommendation. He was unwilling to issue a written order on the spot, because he wanted the court's staff psychologist to write it, and he thought that there might be some special mumbo jumbo that needs to be inserted. The staff psychologist is on vacation. It appears that the judge has limited experience writing this sort of order.

I don't know anything about the psychologist, so he will be a big crap-shoot. We will be subject to his prejudices and goofy ideas. It could work for me or against me.

Then my wife's lawyer tried to cheat me out of my two weeks with the kids. She said that it was conditioned on parenting classes. I pointed out that it came from a Nov. 2004 order, and it wasn't conditioned on anything.

The judge denied her request, and said that I could have the kids for the two weeks. He did give me some conditions, such as giving advance notice, providing an itinerary if we travel, calling regularly, and allowing the kids to attend activities if we stay home. No big deal.

I wanted to point out that it was only out of pure maliciousness that my wife wanted to cheat me out of my two weeks. Maybe the judge understood, and maybe not. I was getting what I wanted, so there was no need to rub it in.

Strangely, my wife's lawyer did not raise the discovery dispute. I have no idea why she would write about it in the papers, and then fail to bring it to the judge's attention.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Joseph said, "I have no desire to micro-manage your lives." Wow. I think that I am starting to like this judge.

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