I just got out of court. The hearing was supposed to resolve a number of pending money issues. We have been operating since July 1, 2004 under temporary support orders that are retroactively modifiable. We were supposed to file financial statements last Friday, and have them decided today.
My ex-wife was unprepared, and claimed that the hearing today was just to get the judge's approval to continue seeing the co-parenting counselor!
We had a discussion of financial issues anyway, with nothing decided. My ex-wife went into a rant about how her lawyer, Ms. Jennifer J. Gray, had subpoenaed 2000 documents from me back in Nov. 2004, but had never bothered to sort them or extract useful info from them. (I think "2000" is the number of documents, and not the year of the documents. She was rambling, and the details were not too clear.) My ex-wife talked about how much money I have, how I might be hiding money, how she doesn't have to time to figure out where all my money is, and how I am not working to my full potential. The judge complained that I had not given a copy of my 2004 tax return to the court, but seemed satisfied when I said that I had given a copy to my ex-wife.
Then Judge Irwin H. Joseph turned his attention to my ex-wife's income, and asked her about getting a job. She said that she could not work because she is busy taking care of the kids and studying for the patent bar exam. She said that she flunked the exam last time, but was taking it again next month. She is already a licensed California lawyer. Passing the patent bar exam would allow her to practice patent law (along with other kinds of law that she can practice already). She also said that she could not afford day care. I volunteered to provide day care, if necessary.
Judge Joseph explained that the law required that she diligently act to become economically self-sufficient, and suggested that she broaden her job search. He said that even a starting lawyer just out of school can make $3,000 per month with a part-time job.
He scheduled us to come back on Dec. 12 to resolve the money issues. My ex-wife didn't want to do it next month because of her busy schedule and her difficulty reading my financial statements. I was a little amazed that she could come into a trial completely unprepared, have no good excuse, and still get a 6-week delay. I didn't pursue the point.
She raised the issue of paying for the co-parenting counselor, and pleaded poverty again. The judge refused to say who was liable for paying. I reminded the judge that last time this issue came up, he lectured us on how we should be equally liable for the fees, even if one party is temporarily fronting the cash, so that we would both be invested in the process. He would only say that he might well do the same again, but he wasn't going to let me pressure him into making a decision.
After that, she complained about the driving to drop off the kids. She said that one time I asked her to pick up the kids, and that this was unfair because she has to drive the kids around during the 80% of the time that she has custody of them. The problem was that my ex-wife had claimed that she had gotten an order to get me to do all the driving for drop-offs and pick-ups, and the minute order from the clerk was ambiguous. The judge remembered the issue from the last hearing, and said that his intention was not to change who does the driving, but merely to tell us to do it on time. I said that was fine. But then my ex-wife persisted in demanding that I do all the driving.
Judge Joseph was getting annoyed with us at this point, and wanted to get back to his other cases. He asked me who is supposed to do the driving under the order. I said that the court-ordered schedule does not say. He seemed surprised at that, and asked me who has been doing the driving. I said that I was doing most of it. He asked me why. I said that I didn't believe that I was obligated to do all the driving, but that I was doing it just for the sake of peace and harmony.
I then explained that Dr. Bess, the court-appointed psychologist, had said that my capitulation was not co-parenting. In order to comply with his idea of co-parenting, I needed to insist that my ex-wife cooperate in the driving. The judge seemed amused by this argument, and acted as if I were a fool for taking the guy seriously. The judge then asked me if I was going to continue to give him grief about Dr. Bess.
I was tempted to say that now it is only Dr. Bess's inkblot analysis that is keeping me from my kids, and that I would complain about it as long as my kids are being withheld from me. But on the odd chance that the judge actually understands what a kooky report Dr. Bess wrote, I let the matter drop. So I explained that I had been willing to do the extra driving, but since my ex-wife had chosen to complain about it in court, I think that she should do her share herself.
The judge rejected that argument as well, and ordered me to do all the driving. When I asked him what possible basis he could have for ordering me to do the driving, he just said, "for peace and harmony". Sigh. No good turn goes unpunished, I guess.
Then my ex-wife went into a rant about this (Angry Dad) blog. She said that I was describing the events of this case on a web site, that it was limiting her ability to get a job in town (because it was damaging her reputation among lawyers, I guess), and that it was preventing her from getting a lawyer. She said that her previous lawyer bailed out because she couldn't stand having her actions described on a web site. Furthermore, the kids have access to the web site, and might learn bad things about their mom from it.
The judge didn't seem to know what to do with this complaint. He probably doesn't realize that I complain about him by name on this blog. (He'll probably find it eventually.) He just told me that I shouldn't denigrate my ex-wife to the kids on any medium. I assured him that I never badmouth her to the kids.
Curiously, my ex-wife and I were under oath for the whole session. Normally, in routine court appearances like this, the arguments are made by lawyers who are not under oath. It is not a crime for them to lie. Lawyers are supposed to be able to give phony stories without significant consequences, I guess. We were sworn in because the judge thought that he'd be collecting financial facts from us. As it turned out, all he got was just the usual silly arguments, and we didn't need to be sworn in.
On the way out, I grumbled to the judge that I cannot win anything in his court. He said that wasn't true because he is now willing to impute income for my ex-wife if she doesn't get a real job. (Judges have been telling her to get a job for about 6 months now, but she has ignored them.) We'll find out at the next hearing, I guess.