Sunday, December 31, 2006

Asking the victim for child support

News of the Weird:
Kimberly Baker, 22, sought child support in Warrensburg, Va., in October from the father of her daughter. However, when officials realized that the father, now 16, would have been 13 when the child was conceived, that made him a rape victim under state law, and thus, they arrested Baker.
There is a good chance the boy will have to pay mom support (aka child support) anyway. I don't think most states have any sort of exception for statutory rape victims.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Waiting for appeal

I haven't posted much about my case lately, because I am waiting for some action from the California appellate court. I was expecting to have heard a schedule for oral argument by now.

Meanwhile, I ran into this story about the California appeals court. A trial judge made an offhand comment that, "You can’t offend the kangaroos up there in kangaroo court." The appeals judge was offended by this, and wrote:
In making his "kangaroo court" remark, on the record in open court, Judge Saiers violated Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Ethics, which provides as pertinent: "A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY. ...

Reading a little between the lines, it appears that Judge Saiers’s "kangaroo court" remark was provoked by his frustration not being able to dispose of a pending case in a way he thought sensible. It would appear that, in his eyes, this court was a naive, ivory-tower, obstructionist, oblivious to the real-world problems of trial courts faced with staggering caseloads.
The page also describes a Mississippi man who went to jail for ten days in 1997 for telling the judge he had a "kangaroo court". Also:
Miss. Bar v. Lumumba, 912 So. 2d 871, 875 (Miss. 2005). The attorney was suspended from practice for 6 months after telling a newspaper reporter that the judge had "the judicial temperament of a barbarian."
I am not an attorney, and as far as I know, there is no law or rule against me calling the judge a barbarian or the court a kangaroo court on this blog.

I am inclined to believe that the appeals court is a kangaroo court. I will be reporting here as soon as I have some first-hand experience.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Piling on Judith Regan

Cathy Young comments on Judith Regan's firing:
A few champions of embattled mothers, such as publishing hotshot Judith Regan (herself embroiled in a custody fight), openly advocated discirmination against fathers: "Women are simply better equipped biologically for parenting young children." ...

When the show was over and I was walking off the set past La Regan's desk, my gracious host told me once again that I was grievously wrong to think that father absence was often not the fault of fathers. "Then why is it that it's mothers who initiate divorces two-thirds of the time?" I asked. In response, Regan shrieked, "Because all those men are pigs! And I hope that some day, you marry a guy who chokes you and gives you a black eye!" (as she alleged her ex had done to her). ...

A friend who used to work for HarperCollins, not directly for Regan but with a few people who had direct contact with her, told me that she was famous for referring to the father of her children as "the sperm donor."
Regan is mainly famous for publishing trashy books; I didn't know that she was so anti-father.

Monday, December 25, 2006

TV's Judge Judy

I just tuned in TV's Judge Judy Sheindlin ranting on CNN Larry King Live against people dress improperly to court:
If for instance this was a custody case in the family court and someone came in saying "screw the justice system" on their t-shirt -- would that give me some indication that this is not a person I would entrust children with? Absolutely.
Be sure and suck up to her if you appear in her court. I do think that there are people in the family court system who are truly evil, and not deserving of any respect. I had a judge (Kelsay) who even admitted that he made a mess out of every child custody trial he had. He seemed determined to continue to make messes out of every case.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Supreme Court may hear child custody issue

Joanna Grossman writes:
In 2000, the Supreme Court handed down an important family law opinion, Troxel v. Granville. There, it held the State of Washington state's third-party visitation law unconstitutional as applied to the case before the Court. (I wrote at length about the case in a prior column.)

At the time, many predicted the demise of parallel laws in other states. But now, six years later, more state statutes have withstood challenge than have not, and courts are once again facing claims that grandparents have a right to seek visitation with a grandchild, even over the objection of the grandchild's parents.

Indeed, recently the highest courts of Pennsylvania and Utah upheld their states' laws with respect to grandparent visitation against a constitutional challenge based on Troxel.
The US Supreme Court said that parents have fundamental constitutional rights over the custody of their children, but a lot of states have gone ahead and awarded visitation to non-parents on the flimsiest of justifications. The Supreme Court may have to hear the same issue again.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Contested divorces can share parenting

A feminist blogger writes:
the proponents of shared parenting initiatives refuse to consider the following facts:

1. families who divorce amicably usually come up with their own custody arrangements;
2. many families who don't divorce amicably still end up settling on an agreed order;
3. the small percentage of contested cases that end up in the courts which would force undue burdens of proof on litigants to avoid shared parenting are families in which abuse has more often occurred. There are the very families for whom shared parenting is completely inappropriate.
The argument here is that we should have shared parenting for settled cases, but not adjudicated cases. The argument is repeated a lot, and rarely refuted, but it is totally idiotic.

Our legal system cannot have one favored outcome for settled cases, and another for adjudicated cases. It just cannot work that way. People settle cases based on an expectation on how they will be adjudicated. If the legal system worked smoothly, and a case had no facts in dispute, then the case would settle because no one would have any advantage to spending the time and money on litigation. If facts are in dispute, then court action might be needed to resolve those facts. But the court should never try to punish one side for failing to sign a settlement that the court would never order anyway.

Many feminists and even child custody evaluators take the position that shared parenting is fine if both parents agree, but if they fail to agree, then the court should order primary custody to the mom. The position is illogical. If shared parenting is good when the parents agree, then it is even better when they don't agree. The court should be issuing orders that approximate a desirable agreement, and not giving incentives for disagreement.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Are false abuse charges a common tactic?

Cathy Young writes in Reason magazine:
Child custody disputes are some of the bloodiest battlefields in the gender wars -- battlefields upon which allegations of spousal and child abuse are widely regarded as a nuclear weapon. But there are two opposite views of this problem. Fathers" advocates claim abuse allegations are routinely used to deny divorced fathers contact with their children and to poison children’s minds against their fathers, in what the activists and some psychologists call "parental alienation syndrome." Feminists argue that well-founded accusations of abuse are often dismissed and even turned against the accusing mothers.
She goes on to explain that the feminist poster girls for this cause have turned out to be frauds.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Judge Sloop gets fired

Orlando Sentinel reports:
The Florida Supreme Court today ordered Seminole County Judge John Sloop removed from the bench.

Sloop is the judge who ordered 11 people jailed because they went to the wrong courtroom by mistake. ...

Sloop blamed the ordeal, which happened in Sanford Dec. 3, 2004, on an undiagnosed case of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, something two psychiatrists testified that he truly did suffer from. ...

If his only mistake had been locking up those 11 people, the justices might have allowed him to keep his job, the court wrote.

But it also reviewed a video of a hearing a few weeks earlier at which Sloop launched into a long, loud abusive tirade against a woman who hadn't paid a $214 fine for 10 years.

Sloop testified that he hadn't lost his temper with the woman, that it was all an act designed to get her to pay, and it had worked.
I think that it is great to fire a judge for jailing 11 people like that for such a frivolous reason, but that last item is strange. I've seen judges go into abusive tirades over minor matters, and I cannot tell if the judge has lost his temper or not.

I get the impression that judges are sent to training seminars where they are taught to treat adults like misbehaving 4-year-olds. When a 4-year-old runs into the street, a parent will often fake anger in order to make an impression on the kid. Judges can similarly lecture someone over something more trivial than a parking ticket.

It is amusing that he used shrinks to make excuses for him. I wonder how often he accepted such lame excuses as a judge.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Boy arrested for unwrapping gifts early

South Carolina news:
A mother convinced Rock Hill police to arrest her 12-year-old son after he unwrapped a Christmas present early.

The boy's great-grandmother had specifically told him not to open his Nintendo Game Boy Advance, which she had wrapped and placed beneath the Christmas tree, according to a police report.

But on Sunday morning, she found the box of the popular handheld game console unwrapped and opened. When the boy's 27-year-old mother heard about the opened gift, she called police.

"He took it without permission. He wanted it. He just took it," said the 63-year-old great-grandmother.
Needless to say, there is no man in the picture. This only happens with single moms.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Getting a simple opposition brief

I just got my ex-wife's legal brief in opposition to my appeal. Most of it consists of just quoting the transcript from the family court judge, and just stating that the judge acted reasonably.

I expected her to do a little more legal research, and concoct some substantial legal arguments and cases on her side. She is a lawyer. Then I would look up the relevant legal issues and file a Reply Brief, as is my right.

Now I don't think that I'll even bother filing a Reply Brief. I doubt that anything that I would say now would make any difference. The appellate courts like to uphold what the lower courts are doing, so the odds are stacked against me. The appeal judges will decide on their own whether the family court judge acted reasonably, and then decide whether they want to do anything about it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting a refund

I just got a $270 refund from the local family court.

I don't know why the court cannot simply send a bill for the amount owed, like every other business. The court had sent me a scary notice saying that I'd lose my appeal unless I paid a $325 deposit to cover the cost of preparing a 10-15 page transcript. The letter suggested that I was on my own to figure out how much it costs. I guess that it cost $55. A couple of months later, I get my refund.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Supplying a transcript to the ex

My ex-wife just called and said that she misplaced her clerk's transcript, and asked to borrow mine so that she can file her appeal brief against me! I said sure. I am a chump.

In reality, it wouldn't make much difference for me to refuse. She would just ask for an extension until she found it, or buy another copy, or just wing it. The legal issue is fairly narrow and the court is probably going to do whatever it wants to do no matter what she says.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Admissability of evidence

A feminist blogger writes:
Jennifer Hoult has a wonderful paper about the reasons why PAS is not admissable under either Frye or Daubert standards in a court of law. PAS needs to be kicked to the curb in all custody situations. It is useless, baseless and fraudulent.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the idea that one parent can badmouth the other parent to a child and generate hostility in the child towards that other parent. It most commonly arises when the mom gets primary custody, and then doesn't want to be bothered with the dad's visitation schedule.

You would think that it would be obvious that PAS sometimes occurs, but these feminists want arguments about PAS banned in court. The above paper argues that PAS evidence should be inadmissible in family court.

I actually think that it is good that feminists are drawing attention to the admissibility of arguments like this. If PAS is inadmissibility then most of the other commonly-used family court evidence would be also. The family courts should have to consider admissibility of evidence just like any other court. It would be much better if it followed either Frye or Daubert standards.

A commenter writes:
You might be interested to do a little research on the author of that "wonderful paper". She won a $500,000 judgment against her father for episodes of child abuse for which the only evidence was her own "recovered memory". Recovered memories are, if anything, considerably more controversial an issue in court and are known to have destroyed many innocent families. Many of the "practitioners" of recovered memory therapy have been exposed as charlatans.

The issue gets interesting when one considers that Hoult shows many of the characteristics of an alienated child, albeit apparently not at the hands of a malicious mother, but one wonders maybe those of a dangerous therapist? Having dug a hole for herself and her father, could she be digging that hole further in order to justify it?

Furthermore, that "wonderful paper" is quite the most horrendous piece of scholarship being largely an extended ad hominem attack on Richard Gardner and containing very little which discusses the reality of the phenomenon of parental alienation. The scary part is that certain influential people are taking it at face value. The dangerous result is that it could easily be used to excuse malicious behavior in custody battles - quite the opposite of its claimed purpose.
Wow. No, I didn't know that. It sounds like Hoult has her own parental alienation issues. Her own personal parental alienation is at least as relevant as Richard Gardner committing suicide.

Yes, you are right, the recovered memory folks are charlatans. They'd be among the first to go, if the court started rejecting more quack experts.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

I just read this book:
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
by Dr. Meg Meeker

That’s right – and teen health expert Dr. Meg Meeker has the data and clinical experience to prove it. After more than twenty years of counseling girls, she knows that fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for their daughters’ lives. Now, she shows you how to strengthen -- or rebuild – your bond with your daughter, and use it to shape her life, and yours, for the better.
Some people have this funny idea that only sons need fathers. Daughters need them too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Domestic violence studies

Dr. Gerald P. Koocher, American Psychological Association President, writes:
Several studies of domestic violence have suggested that males and females in relationships have an equal likelihood of acting out physical aggression, although differing in tactics and potential for causing injury (e.g., women assailants will more likely throw something, slap, kick, bite, or punch their partner, or hit them with an object, while males will more likely beat up their partners, and choke or strangle them). In addition, data show that that intimate partner violence rates among heterosexual and gay and lesbian teens do not differ significantly.
A lot of people refuse to believe this.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Born in the wrong era

A reader writes:
I have been following your blog for quite awhile now. I am a single man (33) who has never married and probably never will given our present cultural climate. The horror stories I could share with you about the decay and moral bankrupcy of my generation. I was born in the wrong era friend.

I am writing to let you know the pride I feel as a man seeing you make a stand, even with the deck so completely stacked against you. You inspire me. It is my prayer that you'll awake each morning renewed and with all clarity and virtue. May you continue to fight the good fight…

I stand beside you, as will the truth – and in agreement, know that you gain very Author of it.
Thanks, but I am not campaigning against marriage. A lot of people are happily married. I do think that marriage has a different meaning today from what it had 40 years ago, but under the law and in popular culture. Make sure you understand it before you get married.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A reader starts his own site

A reader has start his own angry dad site at He says a regular blog like me is coming soon. Best of luck. The more voices the better.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

British Airways treats men as child predators

The UK Daily Mail reports:
British Airways has been accused of treating all men passengers as potential sex offenders after it was revealed it has banned children from sitting next to male strangers - even if their parents are on the same flight.

The bizarre regulation came to light when a nine-year-old girl was moved from her seat next to a 76-year-old passenger and his wife on a flight from Malaga to London.

Instead her mother was told by a stewardess to take the seat next to retired journalist Michael Kemp and his wife Frances, and the girl was moved to the back of the plane.

Mrs Kemp had booked an aisle seat because a bad leg meant she needed extra space. But as the Airbus A320 filled up, she was asked to swap seats with her husband so that she, not he, would be sitting next to the girl.

Mrs Kemp politely declined, explaining to the stewardess that she had asked for an aisle seat to avoid discomfort during the three-hour flight.

But when Mr Kemp offered to move to the window seat so that the girl could sit between him and his wife, the stewardess said it would still breach the airline's child-welfare regulations.
This is bizarre. It is not just a matter of protecting unaccompanied girls. The plane had three adjacent seats, and the girl was going to sit between her mom and her stepdad! What would be the problem with that?

Apparently British Airways has a policy that says that it is better to seat the girl with strangers.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Filed appeal brief

I just filed this appeal brief:
This concerns the dissolution of a marriage between AngryMom and myself, George AngryDad. AngryMom and I were married for almost 7 years when she filed for divorce in Oct. 2003. We have 2 kids. Initially we shared 50-50 custody as per a signed marital settlement agreement. The agreement also covered asset dissolution, support, and had a parenting plan.

In June 2004, AngryMom hired Ms. Jennifer J. Gray as her attorney, and then made an assortment of allegations in support of a motion to gain sole legal custody of the kids. On Nov. 16, 2004, AngryMom was granted primary custody temporarily, without any fact-finding or testimony. Judge Kelly ordered a return to 50-50 custody after a trial on Mar. 25, 2005. Comm. Joseph took over the Santa Cruz family court in June 2005, and he sent us both off to court experts for ink blot tests and co-parenting evaluation. We returned to 50-50 custody in Jan. 2006.

On four occasions, Ms. Gray asked for attorney fees, and Judge Kelly granted part of her request, and denied the rest.

Ms. Gray withdrew from the case in Oct. 2005. AngryMom is a lawyer herself, and she went back to representing herself. According to AngryMom, Ms. Gray’s total bill for the case was $54,892.54. Of that, I have paid a total of $20,000 and AngryMom paid about $10,000. $6,500 is under dispute (along with a child support order) as part of Appellate Case H029xxx.

AngryMom moved for additional attorney fees at an April 17, 2006 evidentiary hearing. That April 17 hearing upheld the validity of our Nov. 2003 marital settlement agreement. With no explanation, she rescheduled her attorney fee motion for May 18, 2006, and submitted a declaration from Ms. Gray. [CT p.120-123]

At the May 18, 2006 hearing [CT p.124-129, RT p.3-5], I said that I was disputing most of the substance of Ms. Gray's declaration, and asked to cross-examine her. Comm. Joseph refused, and ordered me to pay $10,000 in Ms. Gray's fees, and another $5,000 for an appeal of a previous order. [CT p.136-140, RT p.5-8]

The appellate court has jurisdiction to review family court attorney fee orders.

Issues presented
When a motion for attorney fees is backed by a declaration, should I have the opportunity to challenge the allegations in that declaration?

Can I be denied the opportunity to cross-examine a witness against me?

I contend that Ms. Gray's work has been entirely irresponsible and destructive. She has been dishonest with me and the court throughout the case. She lied on her declaration for fees. She didn’t even protect any of AngryMom’s legitimate rights, as two years of litigation has just brought us back to the signed settlement we had agreed upon before Ms. Gray took the case.

I don’t expect this appellate court to determine the correction of my contentions. My complaint is that the lower court did not address them. If I am to be ordered to pay $10,000 for Ms. Gray’s work, then there should be some demonstration of facts to support that claim, and some opportunity for me to rebut whatever allegations and arguments are used. That did not happen, and I believe that this court should find it to be reversible error.

I have a right to confront witnesses against me.
Comm. Joseph’s justification for paying Ms. Gray $10,000 is based on her bill for work between May 13, 2005 and Oct. 2005. He did not see her bills or know what work she really did. He doesn’t even know why she withdrew from the case. All she did during that time period was to attend a couple of status meetings, ask for more evaluations, and try to collect her attorney fees.

What Comm. Joseph did have was a declaration from Ms. Gray [CT p.120-123] with various allegations intended to justify the attorney fees. Perhaps he would have ordered the fees without any evidence, but once a declaration is submitted, I have the right to challenge it.

A declaration is just hearsay unless I have to opportunity to cross-examine the witness. It was reversible error for Comm. Joseph to have refused to give me that opportunity, when I had demonstrated that there were pertinent factual allegations in dispute.

The Court had opportunity for fact-finding, but refused
The motion for attorney fees was originally intended to be heard at a fact-finding hearing on April 17. 2006. There was plenty of time at that hearing to address the matter, but it was put off until April 28, 2006 and again to May 18, 2006 for reasons unknown to me. There was less time on May 18, 2006, but Ms. Gray was present and could have testified. Or her testimony could have been heard at another date. There was no urgency, as Ms. Gray was not representing AngryMom anymore, so payment or collection of some old fee would have no bearing on whether AngryMom's interests were protected going forward.

Trial court failed to consider the factual factors
According to AngryMom’s brief, the trial court must consider ten factors in addition to the parties’ needs and abilities. [CT p.13] Ms. Gray’s declaration [CT p.120-123] is organized around those ten factors, and includes at least one factual assertion for each. I dispute several of those assertions, including the time she spent on the case and the success of her efforts. It is an error for the trial court to ignore my factual disputes, because without resolving them, there is no way for it to consider those ten factors.

The lower court’s attorney fee order must be reversed. I should not have to pay anything for Ms. Gray’s work. My $20,000 should be refunded.
I sent 5 copies to the appellate court, 4 copies to the state supreme court, 1 copy to my ex-wife, and 1 copy to the local family court.

Paying a dead ex-wife

Ohio news:
Joe Randolph, 44, has been instructed by Licking County Child Support Enforcement Agency officials that he must continue the payments until a court tells him he can stop. Thus, he has been paying more than $1,300 per month to nobody in particular.

Sharon Buckingham, a Newark woman who had custody of the couple's children, died April 25 at age 40.

"I ask the burning question, 'Who are they going to send the money to?'" said Randolph's attorney, Jerry Swank. "I think it's just pure silliness. We have a court date in January. I hope it will be resolved before then." ...

Nancy Johnson, director of the Licking County CSEA, said the situation is unusual but can't be resolved through an administrative order.

"When a custodial parent dies, we really don't have the statutory authority to terminate child support," Johnson said. "The CSEA doesn't terminate child support; the court order does. It's certainly a very unfortunate situation and something we've done everything we can to rectify."

The case was set for court, but with 2,000 cases per year in Domestic Relations Court, the earliest date was six months away.

"I'm not sure they knew what to do," Randolph said. "I got the impression that they were going to terminate the order and they had the authority to do that."

Randolph said the combination of making the payments and having custody of the children seriously has stretched his finances.
The point here is that he has 100% custody of the kids, the ex-wife is dead, and he still has to pay child support!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rebroadcasting propaganda

My local PBS TV affiliate just rebroadcast last year's "Breaking the Silence: Children Stories". The CPB and PBS ombudsmen had declared last year that the show was grossly unfair and biased. Yet this anti-father propaganda continues. Think about that before you donate to PBS TV stations.

McCartney charged with abuse

Dr. Helen writes:
I am shocked, totally shocked, that Heather Mills has (allegedly) charged Paul McCartney with abuse. Okay, so this was as predictable as the fact that this couple would divorce quicker than two shakes of a lamb's tail. I wonder how much he will end up paying to get rid of, I mean, to compensate this woman for being married to him for four whole years?
She is expected to walk away with $300M. If she's lucky, the phony abuse charge might get her an extra $100M.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Request for oral argument

I just got this from the appellate court:
The court has reviewed the records and briefs in the above-entitled case. If oral argument is desired by any party, a written request for oral argument must be filed with the clerk of the court and a copy thereof served upon all other interested parties, within ten days from the date of this notice. A "Request for Oral Argument" form is provided for your convenience. The case will then be placed upon the calendar of this court for oral argument.

If no requestfor oral argument is received within the indicated ten-day period, it will be deemed that oral argument has been waived and the matter may be submitted (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 23(d)(1)). Upon acceptance of such waiver, the court will then proceed to decide the case without oral argument or the necessity of appearance on the part of counsel.

In order to avoid unnecessary expenditure of court time in the determination of this appeal, counsel are requested to advise the court immediately if settlement negotiations are in progress or if any other action will be taken which might result in the request for dismissal of the appeal.

Where the parties deem it necessary, each party may file with the Superior Court Clerk a further notice specifying the original exhibits deemed necessary to have transmitted to this Court (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 18(d)).

Michael J. Yerly, Clerk


INSTRUCTIONS: Please complete this form, indicating whether or not you request oral argument, and return it with proof of service on opposing counsel to the Clerk's Office within 10 days. Counsel may elect to present oral argument either by personal appearance or by telephone conference call. If opposing counsel requests oral argument and you fail to respond, the court will assume you will appear personally for oral argument. All oral argument is recorded. Check the appropriate lines below.
Do you get the impression that they don't really want to hear an oral argument? And that they certainly don't want non lawyers?

I sent in the request for oral argument today. I put in my own name in the blank after: "Name of counsel presenting oral argument".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kids hang on to dad's every word

New Scientist reports:
Fathers: watch what you say. It seems dads may have more of an influence on their children's language development than they might think.

Lynne Vernon-Feagans at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her colleagues sat in on playtime with 92 families with dual incomes, observing how much each parent spoke to their child, the words and sentence structures they used, and the types of questions they asked.

Children whose father's vocabulary was more varied when they were 2 years old had more advanced language skills at age 3. Surprisingly, the dads spoke less and asked fewer questions than the mothers, suggesting it was not how much they spoke but what they said and how they said it that resonated with their children.

The mother's vocabulary did not seem to have a significant impact on language development.
People tend to assument that because moms typically spend more time with kids, that the dads' influence is extraneous. Many studies say otherwise.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mass. Mom Convicted of Abusing Daughter

Mass. news:
A mother whose teenage daughter nearly died from an infection caused by a bellybutton piercing was convicted Tuesday of endangering the girl's life by failing to seek medical attention until she was gravely ill.

Deborah Robinson, 39, could get up to five years in prison.

The girl developed an infection after piercing her own navel and inserting a ring.
I don't think that parents should suffer criminal penalties for bad judgment. The real problem here was that a 13-year-old girl was able to get a bellybutton piercing over her father's objections. This would not have happened if the father had not been kicked out of the home.

Court order in Newsweek case

I previously criticized Newsweek below (here, here, and here) for printing a story about abusive fathers winning custody, and describing Genia Shockome as a mom who lost unfairly in court to an abusive ex-husband. Now the judge's 55-page order is available online (as a pdf of scanned images).

Genia Shockome is a head case from Russia. She might have won, but she demonstrated that she was completely uncooperative with everyone on everything. If she is not willing to do shared parenting, she should lose.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A simple status conference in court

I just got out of a family court status conference. I had submitted this statement:
Status Memo

Status issues
Child custody: A 50-50 order is in effect.
Child support: An order is in effect.
Spousal support: Terminated. AngryMom has remarried.
Attorney fees: We are currently unrepresented.
Property division: Property has been divided by mutual agreement, but AngryMom has some issues that she wishes to raise.
My ex-wife submitted something similar, and Comm. Joseph read them. He asked us to explain.

I told him that I contacted two lawyers by phone, and that both were willing to do the nonbinding arbitration.

The judge was very cordial, and asked when we want to return. I said that I had no opinion, and that my ex-wife is driving the case at this point. He said that one of the lawyers I named has at least a one-week backlog on appointments. I said that I was deferring to my ex-wife. He suggested that we come back to court in four months, and we all agreed to a date.

I only had to wait about 15 minutes in court for our case to come up, but that was enough to remind me what a nightmare family court is. First, a lawyer asked to be moved ahead of the queue by claiming that she had a stipulated agreement or postponement. Instead, she had some complicated story that I did not understand.

The next case has handled by some lawyer who looked as if he were fresh out of law school, and he was unfamiliar with both the court's procedures and his client's case history. The judge patiently told him what to do. There was something about the wife refusing to take drug tests, but that is something the family court is actually good at. It can make people take drug tests.

The next case had a couple of seasoned female lawyers, and no clients. The case was at an early stage, and the judge send them to mediation with Dr. Berrenge, the court's in-house mediator. One lawyer said, "Uhh-oh, that is a problem. She recuses herself in all my cases." The judge didn't know what to do, and told her to contact the court mediator to suggest someone else.

It seemed lousy to me that there is a divorce lawyer in town who can't let any clients use the court's only mediator. The mediator is not supposed to have any power, if she really just mediates. She is supposed to just mediate between the divorcing parties, and not even talk to lawyers. I don't know why she'd have to recuse herself, or how the lawyer can conduct her practice under such limitations. It seemed to me that the judge and opposing lawyer should have at least been notified about the reasons for the recusal, but I did not see that happen.

At one point, the judge mentioned getting an email. I was surprised by this. Since when do these jokers have email addresses? Does this mean that I can just dump my gripes/arguments/excuses/etc on the judge whenever I feel like it, if I just had his email address?! I guess that is why he doesn't advertise his email address. I was surprised that he would even admit in open court that he gets email.

Then another case came up where the father and son lived in Illinois, and were not present. His lawyer said that he couldn't afford to fly out for the court appearance. The judge said that he got a letter from Jay Muccilli, the court-appointed psychologist in the case, and asked if the parties or lawyers had seen a copy. They all said no. The judge said that Muccilli said that he wanted to interview the child in person, and the father's lawyer wanted to set up a teleconference. Then the judge said that Muccilli's letter said that he (Muccilli) wanted to interview the child in the next three weeks (in California), or he (Muccilli) would recommend an immediate custody change!

Yikes! Where do psychologists get this kind of power? Muccilli is just some bozo in private practice, who happens to have the ear of the court because he has completed a training seminar and is willing to testify in court. He should not be able to threaten parents with custody changes just because they don't jump thru hoops on his timetable. A custody change is supposed to be for the best interest of the child, not the psychologist. I don't think that the psychologist should even be contacting the judge, except thru the parties and lawyers, so they would have opportunities to object.

I don't know anything about this case. Maybe the father is abusing the child, for all I know. But it seems to me that if there is ongoing criminal abuse suspected, then Muccilli should notify the criminal authorities in Illinois. If it is a more minor matter, then I would expect that it could be handled by phone or video teleconference (which is cheap and convenient with Skype and a PC and an internet connection). Or it could wait until the next time the mom sees the child. I cannot imagine any justification for someone like Muccilli having this sort of power. He didn't even send a copy of his letter to the parents.

I am sure glad that I am not under the control of creepy shrinks like Muccilli any more. All in all, it was a pleasant day in court.

Afterwards, I went downstairs to the law library to look up the lawyer with the one-week backlog. My ex-wife said that he was smarter than the other lawyer I found for the arbitration, but I was a little skeptical. They both have web sites, but the supposedly smarter one conspicuously omitted the name of his law school. It turned out that his law degree is from Cal-Berkeley (Boalt), a top-tier law school. I am still amazed that he can collect $350 per hour for just doing mediation. He doesn't even have to appear in court.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Response to ABA FAQ

Txfeminist writes:
I like how you simply disqualify the American Bar Association FAQ as feminist propaganda. Do you do that with any information that you don't agree with? It's irrelevent? You haven't offered any insight or supporting facts into why you find it to be so.

See the world through whatever color glasses make you feel better, I guess.

I don't see how your CDC quote relates to domestic violence.

Further, I have already refuted Glenn Sacks' talking points here one by one.

For you to simply repeat the talking points, in defense of the talking points, is tautological in nature. The existence of the talking points do not defend arguments made therein. Posted by Txfeminist to The Angry Dad at 10/13/2006 01:29:50 PM
The ABA FAQ is not really an ABA FAQ. It is just an opinion column that was written by some lawyer for the newsletter of some ABA domestic violence committee. It is just a list of so-called "myths" and a list of references that supposedly rebut the myths. Most of the cited articles are not available online.

Myth 1 is about the incidence of domestic violence among custody litigants. However it does not distinguish between physical and emotional violence, or between true and false allegations. The numbers are therefore meaningless.

Myth 2 regards the effect of domestic violence on children. It cites the CDC study that I quoted. As you say, CDC study doesn't really show that the children are harmed, but that is why the study was cited.

The newsletter also cites this review of studies claiming that witnessing domestic violence is correlated with various problems. At least that article is honest enough to admit that the studies have serious methodological flaws, such as relying almost entirely on women living in shelters. Even if it is true that children of women in shelters have more problems, then you might can conclude that women should not move into shelters. That makes as much sense as any other conclusion from these studies.

Myth 3 is that "Mothers frequently invent allegations of child sexual abuse to win custody." The rebuttal is a study that says that the rate is only about 2%. I have no idea what the rate is, and the study is not online.

None of the remaining myth rebuttals cite any online data. The closest is Myth 7 that says that there is such a thing as Parental Alienation Syndrome, and there is a link to an APA statement saying that it has no official position on the matter.

Myth 10 is rebutted by Stockholm Syndrome, but I think that you'll find that the APA has no official position on that either.

John Doe writes:
The APA statement linked to by Myth 7 is carefully neutral on the issue of PAS but it is also used by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to argue that PAS is "discredited" in a document which also explicitly acknowledges the possibility that an abusive parent can turn a child against the non-abusive one. The contradiction does not appear to occur to them. The National Leadership Council also uses the APA statement to argue against the existence of PAS, but their spokeman will admit, in private, to the existence of parental alienation. They are an oddly conflicted bunch. Perhaps Stockholm Syndrome is more prevalent than anyone ever thought.
Yes, the existence of PAS is a different question from whether the APA will include it in the DSM-IV. The APA dropped homosexuality from the book, but doesn't mean that they were denying the existence of homosexuality. The psychologists have various other issues.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Answering the Red State Feminist

Red State Feminist attacks this blog, and argues:
1. Abusers do win custody cases. See the ABA FAQ (PDF) about this if you don't like Silverman's study, his is not the only study which demonstrates this.
I couldn't find any more studies. The "ABA FAQ" is just some false domestic violence propaganda. The closest I could find was this CDC study:
A strong relationship was seen between the number of adverse experiences and self-reports of cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempts, sexual promiscuity, and sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, persons who reported higher numbers of adverse childhood experiences were much more likely to have multiple health risk behaviors. Similarly, the more adverse childhood experiences reported, the more likely the person was to have heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, skeletal fractures, liver disease, and poor self-rated health as an adult.
In other wordds, adults who complain about an assortment of problems tend to also report childhood problems. This is not a surprising correlation, and correlation does not imply causation. It is a nonsequitur to conclude that the child of a wife-beater is less likely to later suffer from obesity or alcoholism if that child is raised by the mother.

Red State Feminist goes on:
2. Domestic violence can and does continue post-separation, post-divorce and frankly as long as the abuser wants it to continue until law enforcement stops him.
Maybe so, but this should have nothing to do with child custody.
3. Abusers do not make good parents because they are abusive.
This is like saying that crazy women do not make good mothers because they are crazy.
4. Assertion that "mom is a head case," -- I don't know, but this reeks of stereotype to me.
I was referring to Genia, not all moms. According to Glenn Sacks:
1) The allegations of abuse against Genia's ex-husband, Timothy, were never once substantiated.
2) The abuse allegations coincided perfectly with every custody hearing.
3) Genia was caught--on videotape--at a supervised visitation center coaching her children to make remarks against their father.
4) During the hearing resulting in her contempt charge and jailing, she was warned over 15 times to stop interrupting the judge.
5) Despite a position with IBM, paying $80,000 per year, Genia refused to pay her child support.
6) A court appointed psychologist characterized Genia as highly controlling, and said the biggest hurdle to an amicable custody arrangement was this fact.
7) Her previous attorney had quit the case because she was too volatile and unpredictable.
If true, Genia is a head case.

Red State Feminist goes on:
5. And regarding the phone calls, apparently Angry Dad doesn't know that if you tell someone to stop calling you and they continue to call you more than three times a day, that's telephone harassment. Yeah. Federal Law. ... Tell you what, anyone that calls repeatedly in the middle of the night - barring emergency - is using harassing behavior. If Angry Dad doesn't think it's so, his definition of "phone harassment" is very different than the Section 43 Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
If the father has violated some federal criminal law, then Genia the head case can notify her local FBI or USDoJ office. She apparently has the tapes to prove it. Since he has not been prosecuted, then we should give him the presumption of innocence under the law.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Model Standards

I just found this Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluation from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. It is dated May 2006.

There are a couple of other documents like this from other agencies that describe what custody evalutators are supposed to do. They are self-serving documents written by custody evalutors to justify themselves. Still, it is worth reading these if you are getting a custody evaluation.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Notice to file opening brief

I just got this from the appellate clerk:
Dear Counsel:

The record on appeal in this case was filed today. The opening brief is due in 30 days in civil cases (rule 14(a), California Rules of Court). The opening brief is due in 40 days in criminal and juvenile cases (rules 33(c)(1) and 37.3(b)(1), California Rules of Court). In referring to this appeal, please use the case number shown above.

We remind counsel that rule 14(a), California Rules of Court, requires that the statement of any factual or other matter in the record be supported by appropriate reference to the record. In accordance with rule 14(e), the court may strike the briefs from the files for noncompliance with rule 14. We refer counsel to rule 45.5 regarding standards for time extensions.

Counsel are further advised that should settlement be effected or some other event affect the posture of the appeal, it is the responsibility of counsel to advise this court immediately.
This brief will be short.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Court transcript

I just got a Clerk's Transcript and a Reporter's Transcript from the local court. Here is the 15-page transcript from one particular hearing:

4 Jill AngryDad (Txxxxxx),
7 )No. F10xxxxx
8 George AngryDad,
14 THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2006
24 VOLUME 1 OF 1
25 Pages 1 through 15, incl.


00 1 THE COURT: I'll go next to AngryDad on
,00 2 line four if that's ready.
00: 00: 13 3 Appearances, please. Say your name.
00:00:16 4 MR. AngryDad: My name is George AngryDad
00 00: 17 5 representing myself.
00 00: 19 6 THE MOTHER: Jill AngryDad.
00:00:21 7 THE COURT: Okay. Let's have both parties
00 00 23 8 sworn.
00 00 23 9 George AngryDad AND Jill AngryDad
0 00 23 10 Having been duly sworn, testified
0 00 37 11 as follows:
0 00 37 12 THE COURT: Thanks. Please have a seat.
00:00:3813 1 think this is on calendar for two reasons.The
R .39 14 first reason is Miss AngryDad's -- sorry.
00 00: 5 6 15 You've taken a former name and I've
00 00 58 16 forgotten to write it down.
00 01 0 3 17 MS. AngryDad: AngryMom.
00 01 03 18 THE COURT: Miss AngryMom's motion for
00:01:0319 attorneys fees. And she breaks that into three
00:01:0520 categories. What she calls needs based, sanctioned
00:01:11 21 based, and appellate.
00:01:1122 It's also on for a status conference
00:01:1123 because there's still property issues to be dealt
00 : 01 : 13 24 with in the case.
00:01:1825 So does either of you have anything to
1826 add to the voluminous pleadings that I've read in


00:01:23 1 this case and reviewed in this case in preparation
R24 2 for today? Moving party, anything to add?
00:01:31 3 THE MOTHER: Nothing unless you want to
00: 0 1 32 4 see the billing records.
00 0 1 33 5 THE COURT: Nope. Sir, anything to add?
00 0 1 37 6 THE FATHER: Yes. I'm disputing several
00:01:41 7 things from Miss Jennifer Gray's declaration. And
00 : 01 :4 5 8 if that's to be considered, I'd like to have an
00:01:48 9 opportunity to cross-examine her.
00 01 52 10 THE MOTHER: She's available for
00 01 57 11 cross-examination.
00 01 57 12 THE COURT: No. We don't do that on this
00 01 57 13 calendar. What is it you're disputing
'00 14 specifically?
00:02:01 15 THE FATHER: I said in my brief.I am
00 : 02 : 02 16 disputing the length of time she's spent on the
00:02:0417 case. I'm disputing whether or not she's won every
00:02:0718 motion. I'm disappointing whether or not I've been
00 : 02 : 10 19 in transigent; those are three things I'm
00: 02: 14 20 disputing. I think I mentioned a couple other
00 02 18 21 things in my brief.
00 02 18 22 THE COURT: Anything you didn't mention in
00:02:2023 your brief you want me to consider at this point,
00: 02:22 24 because I read your brief. I read everything that
00: 02: 2 9 25 both of you filed.
H :3426 MR. AngryDad: Anything else? Well


00: 02 : 34 1 you're -- you're saying you're not giving me an
0c -__ Al 2 opportunity to cross-examine Miss Jennifer Gray?
0 0 2 4 1 3 THE COURT: I'm saying on a motion
0 0 2 4 1 4 calendar you provide evidence in the form of
00: 02 53 5 declarations or points and authorities or
00: 02 53 6 persuasive argument. And in your case, you've
00:02:53 7 provided declarations, you've provided argument,
00:02:56 8 you provided points and authorities as to several
00 : 02 : 5 9 9 of the issues with which you took issue, which you
00: 03: 02 10 disputed.
00: 03 : 03 11 So now I'm asking is there anything else
00:03:0812 you want to add to that which I read in your file
0 03 : 0 9 13 in preparation for this morning?
R;iq 14 THE FATHER: No, just what I said in my
00 : 03 : 27 15 brief and the fact that I would like to
00:03:2916 cross-examine Miss Jennifer Gray if her declaration
00: 03: 35 17 is to be considered because I think there's a
0 03 37 18 number of statements there that are -- that are
0 03 3 9 19 seriously misleading and that only through
00:03:5120 testimony will we draw out exactly how she has
00:03:5821 spent all this money and whether or not she
00: 03: 58 22 deserves to be reimbursed for any of it.
00: 04: 01 23 THE COURT: Have you seen the billing
00: 04: 02 24 records?
00: 04: 03 25 MR. AngryDad: Yes, I have.
00 ~04 26 THE COURT: Okay. And did you spend any


0 : 04 : 07 1 part of your declaration or pleadings that I may
00 lo 2 have missed contesting any part of those billing
00: 04 :13 3 records, because I don't remember -- I do remember
00: 04 : 15 4 you questioning the amount of time. You said it
00:04-18 5 was 16 months not almost two years or 22 months. I
00:04:22 6 do remember that you questioned your being at fault
00 : 0 4 : 27 7 or not. I do remember that you questioned the
00:04:33 8 repetitiveness of some of the pleadings or the
00: 0 4 3 6 9 redundancy of some of the pleadings.
00: 0 4 38 10 Is there something else that you want me
00 0 4 4 5 11 to consider? Because normally -
00 04 4 5 12 MR. AngryDad: I think that's all of it.
00:04:4513 I don't think she's done anything that's been worth
X :47 14 while at all.
00: 04: 4 8 15 THE COURT: I understand that's your
00 : 04 : 4 9 16 position.
00: 0 4: 4 9 17 Is there anything else that I didn't have
00: 0 4: 57 18 before me that you want me to consider today?
00:05:10 19 MR. AngryDad: Just that I'd like to
00:05:1120 respond in detail to her claims. And I believe
00:05:1521 only by cross-examining her can we understand the
00 : 05: 19 22 exact nature of her claims.
00: 05:20 23 THE COURT: No. Cross-examination would
00: 05:22 24 only provoke argument.
00: 05:23 25 If you have a different position, you do
2626 that by asserting that position in your responsive


00:05:29 1 papers. That's the way you do it on motion
R.31 2 calendar.Every time there's a dispute you don't
00 : 05: 3 6 3 bring in witnesses in a family law or other civil
00: 05: 3 9 4 matter.
00:05:40 5 On this calendar, it's done by
00: 05 : 42 6 declaration, by other evidence, by documentary
00:05:49 7 proof, by information adduced through discovery.
00:05:54 8 By the presentation of documents or other tangible
00:06:01 9 evidence and argument of course.
00: 06: 05 10 Anything else you want me to consider
0 0 6: 07 11 today?
0 0 6: 0 9 12 MR. AngryDad: Okay. Well, my -- I
00:06:1513 disputed what she said in my brief that I guess was
X :2014 not under oath. I'd like to say under oath to
00:06:2315 reiterate that, that I do dispute much of what she
00 : 0 6: 32 16 says; that I believe that -- I dispute that I've
00:06:3917 been in intransigent. I dispute the length of time
00:06:3918 she's been on the case. I dispute that she's done
00:06:4419 anything worthwhile in this case. I believe she's
00:06:4420 been -- that her involvement in this case has been
00: 0 6: 4 9 21 destructive in its entirety.
00: 06: 4 9 22 THE COURT: Okay. Anything else?
00: 0 6: 57 23 MR. AngryDad: No.
00: 06: 57 24 THE COURT: Anything else?
00: 06: 57 25 THE MOTHER: No.
:5726 THE COURT: Okay. The Court wasn't given


00:07:01 1 all the information as cleanly and exactly as I
)c .07 2 would have liked but given the facts that I'm
00 : 07 : 08 3 dealing with, people not experienced in family law,
00:07:1o 4 I'll take that as a given.
00 07 12 5 So I did my own calculation.
00 07 15 6 First, the Court notes that on May 13th
00 07 :17 7 of 2005, fees were assessed by Judge Kelly. And
00:07:22 8 this Court believes that the fees were assessed at
00:07:27 9 that time in addition to whatever previous orders
00:07:3310 exist accommodate the outstanding billings as of
0 07 3 4 11 that date, which were 40,452.
0 0 7 4 0 12 Based on the information I received at
00: 07 :4 3 13 the most recent -- in the most recent batch of
00 A614 pleadings, the billings all together total $54,892
00:07:5315 leaving a balance of $14,440 that this Court
0 0 8 00 16 believes subject to section 2030 and 2032
0 08 0 6 17 consideration.
00 08 0 6 18 This Court believes that given the
00:08:1219 disparity in income and available monies to both of
00: 08: 13 20 these parties, that Mr. AngryDad, that is
00:08:1821 Respondent in this case, should pay $10,000 of the
00 : 08 : 2 1 22 14, 440 .
00: 08:22 23 With respect to the appeal, the
00:08:3124 Respondent -- the Petitioner's request for $50,000
00:08:3125 is ludicrous given the very finite nature of the
:3926 issue on appeal. I'll call it small but I don't


00:08:46 1 mean that to infer unimportant but rather just how
00 .48 2 much -- how much work will be required to prepare a
00:08:51 3 response to what I expect to be Appellant's opening
00: o8:55 4 brief.
00 0 8 55 5 The court grants $5,000 as Appellate
00 08 58 6 attorneys fees;.
00 0 9: 03 7 That's a total of $15,000 payable in
0 0 9: 03 8 $5,000 intalments.
0 0 9: 03 9 The first installment due the first of
00: 09: 07 10 July and then first of each month until paid in
00 0 9: 07 11 full.
00 0 9: 0 8 12 This is above and beyond any other fees
00:09:1013 assessed in this case pursuant to 2030; and I don't
00:15 14 think there have been any 271 fees, but if there
00:og:iB 15 have been,in addition to those as well.
00: 0 9 : 2 0 16 So, Miss AngryDad, I'll ask you as moving
00:09:2317 party to please prepare an order after hearing.
00: 0 9: 2 5 18 And the facilitator can help you with that if
00: 0 9: 27 19 you're not sure how to get that done. Have it sent
00:09:3020 over to Mr. AngryDad for review pursuant to rule -
00: 0 9: 3 3 21 local rule 391. Sorry. To California rule of
00:09:3722 Court 391. And then it can be presented to the
00: 09: 4 0 23 court.
00: 09: 4 0 24 With respect to the status conference,
00:09:4225 I'm going to assume that from your perspective most
A626 everything has been on hold with regard to the


00:09:48 1 property issues. And I don't really see a need for
R52 2 you to come back to Court promptly. So I'll give
00: 0 9: 54 3 you October the 16th at 8:30 as a return for your
00: 0 9: 57 4 status conference date, October 16 at 8:30.
00:10:01 5 If you're able between now and then to
00 :10: 03 6 work out issues relating to the outstanding
00 :10 : 05 7 property issues in the case, certainly I'll
00:10:08 8 appreciate it because it will narrow the scope of
00:10:10 9 work that we need to do together. And that will do
00 : 10 : 18 10 it. Thank you.
00:10:1811 THE MOTHER: Can I address a matter
00:lo:1812 that's not on but I otherwise I'd have to bring a
00 : 10 : 22 13 motion -
2214 THE COURT: Tell me what it is and then
00:10:2315 we'll see if there's a stipulation that it can be
00 10 2 5 16 heard today or not.
00 10 27 17 MS. AngryDad: All right. It's come to
00:10:2918 my attention Mr. AngryDad does not believe there
00:10:3119 is a summer schedule or holiday schedule ordered by
00:10: 34 20 the Court.
00:10:3521 He -- and this came to my attention when
00:10:3822 1 called him up to confirm me taking the kids for
00: 10 : 4 1 23 Mother's Day -- he said, well, I'll let you have
00: 10: 44 24 them but there's no order by the Court.
00:10:4525 So, well, thank you very much, but there
4726 is an order by the Court and we'll do that.And


this -- this affects the whole summer schedule which I've already planned
already. Two weeks were
allocated to each parent throughout the summer.
THE COURT: Sorry for the interruption. In preparation for
today, did you look through
your file so you can give me the date of the summer schedule that you say was
agreed upon as part
of the Court's file? I'm assuming Family Court Services --
THE MOTHER: The recommendation of Dr. Johnson for a summer and
a holiday
schedule which kept -- was kept in place. And December 12th we just changed the
custody around
during the school year. Week on week off. He does not believe there's a holiday
or summer schedule
now in place.
THE COURT: Give me just a moment then I'll ask you for your
I'm looking at the November 8, 2004 report from Dr. Johnson
including the
recommendations filed with the Court November 8, 2004. And I haven't looked for
this before. But
maybe I can head off an issue here by just talking with you for a moment. Is
there an order
incorporating or adopting those recommendations?
MS. AngryDad: There's no findings and


00: 12 : 12 1 order after hearing written which is a problem. I
12 2 should have written one up because now I don't have
00: 12 :12 3 an order to hand -
00 :12 :18 4 THE COURT: Is there a minute order that
00:12:18 5 Judge Kelly would have indicating Judge Kelly was
00 : 12 18 6 adopting the recommendations?
00: 12 19 7 MS. AngryDad: Yes . That was -
00:12:21 8 Dr. Johnson's recommendations were adopted pending
00 : 12 2 4 9 the trial.
00: 12 2 5 10 THE COURT: Is that your recollection,
00: 12 30 11 sir?
00 :12 3 0 12 MR. AngryDad: Some of his
00:12:3013 recommendations were adopted on a temporary basis.
;3614 THE COURT: Has there been anything to --
00:12:3815 anything contrary to those recommendations since
00 12 :4 2 16 November of '04?
0 12 53 17 MR. AngryDad: Well, yes. But -
0: 12 56 18 THE COURT: You tell me what that is.
00: 13: 07 19 MR. AngryDad: Well, we've had a couple
00 13 12 20 schedule changes since then. But -
00 13 31 21 THE COURT: So I'm looking at the minute
00:13:3222 order dated September 16th; Judge Kelsay was here
00:13:3723 on that date. And the Court then advised that its
00: 13: 38 24 in receipt of Dr. Johnson's recommendations.
00:13:4025 Pending evidentiary hearing the Court
:4526 temporarily adopts the recommendations of


00:13:45 1 Dr. Johnson re time share and items 12 through 22.
R.49 2 Time share would include the summer schedule.
0 13 57 3 MR. AngryDad: Yes,and that was adopted
0 13 5 9 4 temporarily.
0 13 5 9 5 THE COURT: Okay. So has there been any
00: 14 02 6 event in the Court -
00: 14 04 7 MR. AngryDad: I -
00 : 14 05 8 THE COURT: -- that terminates that
00:14:07 9 temporary order or modifies that temporary order?
00: 14: 11 10 MR. AngryDad: Yes. We've had a couple
00: 14 : 11 11 of schedule changes since then.
00:14:1312 THE COURT: Has there been orders by the
00 : 14 :15 13 Court or just things you've agreed upon?
00:18 14 MR. AngryDad: Yes. I guess what I'd
00 :14 : 2 0 15 like to head off here is that -- I mean, she seems
00:14:2316 to be asking you to make some sort of order about
00 :14 25 17 this today.
00 :14 25 18 THE COURT: No, I'm trying to find out if
00:14:2719 the two of you recognize where this case will go if
00:14:3120 there's a logical and likely conclusion to Miss
00: 14: 38 21 AngryMom's claim.
00: 14: 39 22 MR. AngryDad: Okay. But it's -
00:14:4023 THE COURT: I'm not making rulings today
00: 14:4 3 24 because it's not before me today.
00: 14: 44 25 MR. AngryDad: I understand that. But
00:4526 it's not clear to me that there's and actual


0 14 : 4 8 1 disputed issue here. Mother's Day was last
H53 2 weekend; okay? She got the kids for Mother's Day.
0 14 5 6 3 I don't know what the actual dispute is.
0 14 5 8 4 THE COURT: Okay.
0 14 5 9 5 MS. AngryDad: The dispute is that by May
00:15:02 6 15th I'm supposed to pick the two weeks of the
00:15:05 7 summertime and give it to him and then I get those
00:15:07 8 two weeks. Plane tickets have already been bought.
00:15:11 9 There are several occasions throughout the summer
00:15:1210 based upon the schedule that was ordered by the
00:15:1411 Court and we've been following for the last
00: 15 17 12 two-and-a-half years.
00: 15 17 13 THE COURT: All right. Well -
00;19 14 MR. AngryDad: I'm not contesting her
00: 15 : 22 15 taking that trip. That's -- that's okay with me.
00: 15: 2 7 16 THE COURT: So maybe what the two of
00: 15 2 8 17 you -
00: 15 2 9 18 MR. AngryDad: It's not an issue as far
00:15:31 19 as I'm concerned.
00: 15: 32 20 THE COURT: What mother should do is put
00:15:3421 together a summer schedule in writing, transmit it
00 :15: 4 1 22 to father.
00: 15: 4 1 23 MS. AngryDad: I already did that.
00 :15: 4 1 24 THE COURT: And did you receive such a
00 :15: 4 1 25 schedule, sir?
00:42 26 MR. AngryDad: Yes.


00: 15: 4 3 1 THE COURT: Do you agree or disagree with
44 2 the written schedule?
00: 15 4 5 3 MR. AngryDad: I agree with it.
00: 15 4 6 4 THE COURT: Okay. Did I just head off a
00: 15 50 5 motion?
00 : 15: 50 6 MS. AngryDad: No, you didn't, because he
00:15:51 7 agrees with it now but he does not believe there's
00:15:53 8 an order in place. He at his whim and his decision
00 :15: 55 9 not to be generous could decide not --
00 : 15: 57 10 THE COURT: Sir,are you willing to sign a
00:15:5811 stipulation that you agree to it if the piece of
00:16:0112 paper that you received is attached to such a
00 16: 0 6 13 stipulation?
00:0714 MR. AngryDad: She wants that summer
00 16: 08 15 schedule to be stipulated by the Court?
00:16:1316 THE COURT: She wants it ordered by the
00 : 16: 14 17 Court.
00: 16: 14 18 MR. AngryDad: To say that she can
00:16:1619 take -- I guess we could stipulate to a summer
00 :16: 2 8 20 schedule if -
0 16: 2 9 21 THE COURT: Not "a summer schedule." "The
0 16: 3 1 22 summer schedule" that she has given you.
00:16: 33 23 MR. AngryDad: That she has given me?
00 : 16: 35 24 THE COURT: Yes.
00: 16: 3 6 25 MR. AngryDad: Yeah, I'm agreeable to
00:39 26 stipulate to that.


00 16:39 1 THE COURT: All right. Prepare it and
0041 2 I'll sign it.
0 16: 4 2 MS. AngryDad: All right.
0 16: 4 2 4 THE COURT: Thank you.
0 16. 4 5 5 MS. AngryDad: Thank you.
The numbers on the left are times and line numbers. They didn't scan very well. Normally, I would delete the numbers and reformat it, but I am leaving the numbers in. My ex-wife might want to cite line numbers in court papers.

Judge orders sign for deadbeat dad

AP reports:
WABASH, Ind. -- A judge ordered that a man who has failed to pay child support must spend his days sitting in a county building's lobby under a sign reading "I don't support my kids."

Wabash Circuit Judge Robert McCallen III said he imposed the sentence against Michael Booth, 33, of Wabash not as a special punishment, but to avoid adding to the overcrowding of the county jail.
His only crime was that he was unemployed, not that he failed to make any court-ordered payments.

I think that the sign violates his free speech rights, because it forces him to say something that is not true. A more accurate sign would say, "I am unemployed, and I am not paying cash to my ex-wife". He can support his kids without paying his ex-wife, and any support payments to his ex-wife do not have to be spent on the kids. So whether he is making payments does not necessarily have much to do with supporting the kids.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Newsweek rebutted

There are some letters to Newsweek complaining about the story below, including this:
I hear it everywhere--on playdates, at the park, at school with my children--the sound of mothers denigrating the way their husbands parent. While moms and dads are different, neither is more important than the other. But somehow it seems we feel more comfortable criticizing the fathers. NEWSWEEK sure did with such a one-sided article about parental alienation syndrome. Whenever I read articles like this or hear those mothers at school, I always wonder if they have sons. And if they do, what are they going to think about all this when their boys are on the receiving end of these bitter battles?
Yes, women sure know how to complain about men.

I found the cited 2004 Harvard survey. It turns out that it was not a random survey at all. It was based on 39 women who had volunteered to gripe about their ex-husbands and the family court. In order to qualify for the survey, the women had to express dissatisfaction with the family court violating their rights. Then this supposedly scientific study found that most of them had lost their cases!

You could use this methodology to justify any complaint about the courts. If you wanted to prove that judges discriminate against redheads, you could just find a bunch of redheads who had been to court, restrict attention to those redheads who had bitter complaints about the court, and then ask how many of them had lost their cases. This work is completely bogus.

I also looked at what the study meant by "documented spousal abuse". I naively assumed that it meant that there was some sort of finding of abuse by some judge or other neutral party. It turns out that it just means that there was some piece of paper showing that the woman had complained of abuse, regardless of whether anyone thought that the complaint had any merit. On the other hand, the women were not considered abusers unless there was a complaint that had been "substantiated".

Then the paper concludes:
Our findings indicate that in specified documented cases, state actors in the Massachusetts family courts may be failing to act in accordance with international human rights standards when making child custody and visitation recommendations and decisions in cases involving IPV [intimate partner violence].
The cited human rights are generalities like these:
punish acts of violence ... the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration ... No one shall be subjected to torture ... without distinction of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
But the article fails to find even one example of an unpunished act of violence or other human rights violation. What the authors really want to do is to punish the children based on unsubstantiated allegations by the mom against the dad when they were formerly living together. That would violate those human rights.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Newsweek: Fighting Over the Kids

Newsweek says:
according to one 2004 survey in Massachusetts by Harvard's Jay Silverman, 54 percent of custody cases involving documented spousal abuse were decided in favor of the alleged batterers. Parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every case.
Funny, the paper is not on Silverman's web site. Perhaps that is because he was caught in a scandal involving suspicions that he cooked the data. I don't believe that he can back up his numbers. Spouse abusers do not win child custody cases.

The spousal abuse allegation is just a big smokescreen anyway. If the parents are divorced, then spousal abuse is irrelevant. If they aren't married, there is no spousal abuse. A spousal abuser could still be a good parent.

Newsweek tells a sob story about how some mom lost a custody battle, and blames it all on domestic violence. Glenn Sacks explains that in fact court evidence showed that the mom is a head case.

This feminist blogger attacks Glenn Sacks's commentary, and cites the mom's brief:
The court couldn’t deny the father abused the mother with excessive and harassing phone calls because it was established by his own testimony and phone tapes. He called ten or more times a day sometimes as late as 1:05 AM.
She also says that the mom is now suing her ex-lawyer and the judge in federal court.

It seems pretty silly to complain about 10 phone calls in a day being harassment. If she doesn't want the phone calls, she doesn't have to take them. My ex-wife calls as much as 5 times a day. It is no big deal.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Child support bureaucrats

I just got this in the mail:
P.O. Box 980218
Sacramento, CA 95798

September 21, 2006
Participant Number: 199000001xxxxxx
Case Number: 1990000001xxxxx

Welcome to the California Child Support Automation System. As part of the child support program, we must keep your child support case information in the California State Case Registry and also send it to the Federal government. The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) or the federal government may give the information to courts, California and other child support agencies, and sometimes to the other parent of the child(ren) if there is a current order to do so. If you or your children are victims of family violence, you may not want DCSS or the federal government to share your case information. If you wish to prevent information sharing, let us know and we may be able to place a family violence indicator (FVI) on your case restricting information exchange.

If you believe you or your children are a victim of family violence, contact the Customer Service Center at 1 866 349 7540 and request a family violence questionnaire.

Additionally, if the employer of a parent who is required to pay support is served a California Income Withholding Order, DCSS will process the child support payments through a centralized payment processing unit. In California, the centralized payment processing unit is called the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).

NOTE: Please keep this notice for future reference as it contains your specific case number and participant identification number.
Then there is some telephone info in various other languages.

I really don't know what this is all about. My guess is that there are state bureaucrats who somehow profit from getting more people in their system. Maybe they profit from domestic violence allegations, as they are encouraging that. It appears that there are some privacy rights that only belong to those who make phony domestic violence allegation. Weird.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wife-beaters in Georgia

Amnesty International complains:
Tens of Thousands of Women in Georgia Suffer Domestic Violence While Perpetrators Go Unpunished, Says Amnesty International
Progress Rests on Implementation of New Legislation, Group Says

(New York) -- Tens of thousands of women in Georgia are hit, beaten, raped and in some cases even killed by their husbands or partners, while perpetrators usually go unpunished, Amnesty International said in a new report today. The group says that the recent adoption of legislation on domestic violence is an important step forward, but that authorities must exercise strong political will to bring change.

"Women in Georgia suffer incredible violence in their own homes, violence that persists due to widespread impunity," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "It's the government's responsibility to end this scourge. There are signs of progress, but we'll be watching closely."

The 28-page report, Georgia: Thousands suffering in silence: Violence against women in the family, outlines:

* the widespread impunity of perpetrators of domestic violence in Georgia; ...
I thought that the Amnesty International folks had gone nuts until I figured out that they are talking about some country in Asia, not Atlanta. American women are treated the best in the world. Not even Amnesty International could complain about treatment of American women.

Friday, September 22, 2006

My reply brief

I just filed this appellate brief.
This appeal focuses on some narrow legal issues, mostly concerning what justifies a deviation from child support guidelines. Here, I just address a few points from AngryMom's opposition brief.

Discovery is not an issue on this appeal
I have supplied all tax returns, 1099 forms, bank statements, income and expense statements, etc. promptly when requested. There is no discovery dispute pending, nor is there any finding that I ever withheld any documents. There is no discovery issue in this appeal, so this court must assume that my income was adequately documented for the lower court.

My house does not justify a deviation from guideline
I object to the $3,000 per month of nontaxable income being added to the Dissomaster calculation, based on not having a mortgage and Marriage of Loh. AngryMom cites Judge Kelly explicitly rejecting the figure at a hearing, and anticipating that AngryMom would later make some sort of motion to reconsider. (AngryMom's brief, p.13) There was no later hearing that addressed the merits of the $3,000. Comm. Joseph reinstated the $3,000 on his own, and mailed us the order. I had no notice that he was even considering it.

Even if there had been a hearing on the $3,000 (after the hearing in which Judge Kelly rejected it), there is no way to use Marriage of Loh to justify it. Marriage of Loh stands for using tax return figures. The judge cannot deviate from guideline just because I don't have a mortgage.

The court must use accepted definitions of income
As AngryMom says in her brief, I have argued for using a definition of income that is used by the tax authorities. The tax code has hundreds of pages of regulations defining what is and is not income. It is not so easy to just throw that all away and replace it with a new definition. When Comm. Joseph suddenly declares that $3,000 of nontaxable income must be added to my actual income because I don't have a mortgage, then I have no idea what definition of income he is using. It is reversible error for him to just invent his own definition of income.

AngryMom does not propose any definition of income, and tries to justify what the court did based on some alleged confusion about my income. It is true that I got "hammered" at the Aug. 30, 2004 hearing because AngryMom's lawyer blindsided me with lies about my income and I was not fully prepared to rebut them. (AngryMom's brief, p.15) I naively thought that income and expense statements and three years of tax records would be sufficient for the court. But any confusion about my income should just be a reason to conduct more discovery or to hold a fact-finding hearing. Instead the court just accepted the erroneous and unsourced figures from AngryMom's lawyer, and made all the support orders indefinitely retroactively adjustable. And the only retroactive adjustment it made was to add in the $3,000 that Judge Kelly explicitly rejected.

Dance classes do not justify guideline deviations
AngryMom claims to justify the $500 child support add-on by citing "diminished ability to provide for things" like dance classes. Divorce causes all sorts of hardships to couples as they try to maintain two households on income that previously supported one household. The child support guidelines already have formulas that specifically increase the fraction of income that must be spent on the kids if the kids are divided between two households. Attending dance classes is at the discretion of the parents, as are a hundred other parenting decisions. The law merely uses a percentage of income as a support obligation. It says nothing about whether the kids should attend dance classes, or how such fees might be paid. Child support is based on income, not the cost of food, housing, or clothes, and certainly not the cost of dance classes.

The $6,500 fee appeal is timely
My appeal is on Comm. Joseph's orders dated "Dec. 20, 2005 et seq". I wrote it that way because the Dec. 16, 2005 order was not final, as Comm. Joseph invited me on that date to file additional papers in order to have my arguments heard. He then heard (and rejected) my arguments in Feb. 2006, and I took that as when the order became final. I've tried asking appellate attorneys how to tell when a family court order becomes final, and no one could tell me. The family court seems to like to dribble out orders in bits and pieces, and retain jurisdiction over retroactive modifications for indefinite periods of time. Even though this case started three years ago, it continues today in the lower court with no end in sight. I believe that I have picked a reasonable date for this appeal, and that it should be regarded as being in compliance with the rules.

As argued in my opening brief, the lower court's monetary orders must be reversed. The deviations from child support guidelines have not and cannot be justified. The attorney fee order is contrary to the record.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Received the opposition brief

I just got my ex-wife appeal brief. She apparently did it herself, without a lawyer. She is a lawyer herself, but she got the court to order me to pay some of her legal fees. She only gets the money if she actually hires a lawyer.

She continues to rely on Marriage of Loh for the principle that the family court judge can force me to pay extra child mother support based on me not having a mortgage. But the Loh decision says that the court has to use income tax figures. I don't see how the case helps her at all.

She thinks that my brief didn't follow the rules, but I am betting that the clerk rejects her brief instead. The appellate clerk has some very silly rules.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mediator conflicts

A reader asks:
Why do you say that mediators have conflicts? Aren't they purely and neutrally motivated for the benefit of the kids?
Maybe if they are working for free. If they are getting paid, then you have to look at how they get paid, and what incentives they have. Mediators can make a lot of money from doing court-mandated work. It is lucrative been there is usually some guaranteed minimum number of sessions and the court will make the clients pay.

The mediators make the most money if they convince the court that they know much more about child-rearing than the parents, and if the court imposes one-sided custody orders. Then the disadvantaged parties have to grovel to the court for an opportunity to convince a mediator that a better deal might be appropriate. The mediator can then collect the big bucks while he lectures the father on domestic violence or bedtime stories or whatever.

The mediators on the PBS show were just reciting arguments that would maximize their income. Self-serving comments aren't necessarily wrong, but they are suspect, and a fair show would point that out. In this PBS show, I think that many of the mediators' comments were wrong, and it is unfortunate that the show did not have some fathers' rights advocate who could explain the errors.

PBS TV show

I watched Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse. It was supposed to balance out a very biased show from last year. I don't think that it did that very well. It did give some arguments for and against shared parenting.

The first half of the show had various divorce and custody anecdotes, with various self-serving comments from mediators. One family court judge (Commissioner Marjorie Slabach) acted like she was a mind-reader, who could tell who was telling the truth and who was causing conflict. She said that it was wrong to ask a child for a preferred parent. A mediator named Sanchez said that he could accomplish the same thing by indirectly asking the same thing and using trickery.

Nobody explained how these mediators act with their own interests in conflict with those of the kids.

It was unclear whether these characters realize how much damage they are doing.

A social worker mentioned a sad story about how one particular pair of parents with restraining orders had to hand off their kid by letting him walk across a parking lot at 11pm to another car. All agreed that the child shouldn't have to do that, but no one made the obvious suggestion that such restraining orders should be eliminated. Instead, they just recommended some other building instead of the parking lot.

The second half of the show was a debate on shared parenting.

An Iowa family court judge named Robert Blink was against shared parenting because he wants to have the "freedom" to award custody however he wants. Making the courts predictable would result in "cookie cutter justice", he says.

He then said, "The ability to coparent effectively after a divorce is the exception, rather than the rule."

Divorce mediator Steve Sovern was against shared parenting, because domestic violence might make it inappropriate. He specificly mentioned domestic violence even when there have never been any such complaints. He did not explain.

There was a creepy-looking Canadian named Peter Jaffe who was against shared parenting. He said that a presumption of shared parenting was good for society, but not good for the courts because it coerces couples into shared parenting settlements.

Hofstra law prof. Andrew Schepard said that a presumption of shared parenting is wrong for moral reasons. He said that previous laws which had a presumption against shared parenting did not work, and therefore presumptions are bad.

He admitted that all the research indicates that two parents are best for kids, but he is troubled by the idea of the public being told that the law has such a presumption.

He complained that some angry dads are "challenging the legitimacy of the court system". Yes, we do challenge the legitimacy of any court that follows his advice.

Jaffe complained that domestic violence has been ignored. I don't know about Canada, but California gives grossly exaggerated importance to domestic violence in family court.

Isolini Ricci said, "people are coming to the courts because they don't know how to have a relationship and to resolve disputes" and suggested education for everyone as the only solution.

This is idiotic. It is like saying that banks repossess cars because bankers and car buyers don't know how to resolve disputes. No, banks take action because borrowers fail to make payments. And when they goto court, the judge just enforces the contract, and doesn't send the case out to mediation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Grandparent visitation

A reader writes that 3 states have apparently defied the Supreme Court's ruling in the Troxel case, and gotten away with it:
WASHINGTON — Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court curbed grandparents' rights in child-visitation disputes, three recent rulings by state supreme courts suggest that those who go to court seeking more time with their grandchildren are gaining ground.

The recent rulings in Pennsylvania, Utah and Colorado in favor of grandparents who sought visitation despite the objections of a child's parent indicate that courts increasingly are sympathizing with grandparents — particularly in cases involving the death of a parent or another family tragedy.

The rulings represent the latest chapter in a contentious area of family law that is reverberating from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in 2000. The ruling rejected Washington state's grandparent-visitation law, saying it was too broad because it allowed "any person" to petition for visitation at "any time."
That U.S. Supreme Court's ruling was a good one for parental rights.

New PBS show on parenting

Glenn Sacks writes:
Last October PBS aired the film Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories on many of its affiliates. The film portrayed fathers as batterers and child molesters who use family court machinations to wrest children away from their mothers. The film was extremely one-sided, and presented a harmful and inaccurate view of divorce and child custody cases. Moreover, the film portrayed one mother as a heroic, victimized mom, when records which we made public show that she had abused children under her care, and had lost custody for that reason. ...

Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse, the film they commissioned in response to our campaign, aired in Boston last night, and will be airing in several dozen markets over the coming weeks. To PBS's credit, they followed through on the commitment they made last December to produce a balanced film.
My local PBS affiliate is scheduled to show it at 10pm tomorrow evening. To say that the earlier show was "extremely one-sided" is an understatement. It was the most one-side TV show I have ever seen.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Responding to Mississippi case

An anonymous father comments below to my previous post:
It's interesting that you don't entertain or mention the possibility that the father wanted no part of his son's life, and that it was his absentee fatherhood that led, in part, to his son's later criminal behavior.

Is it really your contention that it's solely mothers who are keeping fathers out of kids' lives after a divorce?
No, it is not just mothers. It is also judges, lawyers, psychologists, court-appointed evaluators, legislators, and others who devalue the father's role.
Second, we don't learn anything about the background of the father from this article. He may be an upstanding guy who is being mistreated by the courts and his ex-wife. He might also be a deadbeat who just wants to get out of paying child support. He might be somewhere in between. We just don't know from the article.
You're right, I am making some inferences. It is possible that the mother did a fine job of raising the boy. It is possible that the boy is innocent, but has been falsely accused and convicted of murder. It is possible that the mother tried to persuade the father to have a real father's role in the boy's upbringing, but the father refused. I just don't think that those possibilities are very likely. If I get more info, I'll post it.
Until the case is decided, the mother is entitled under the current interpretation of the law to continue to collect child support.
No, the case has been decided. The parents took the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the father lost. That is the end of the line. The father has to pay.

Even if the father is a deadbeat dad, he still shouldn't have to support the mother while the son is in prison.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mississippi father cannot avoid child support

Mississippi news:
Tyler Edmonds, now 16, was convicted of murder in 2004 in the shooting death of his half-sister's husband. He was 14 at the time of the slaying. He is serving a life sentence. ...

Still, many [fathers] try to get out of paying child support.

Danny Edmonds just tried another track and failed.
Yes, he thought that he could get his child support order lifted because the boy is in prison. Nope. The court says that he has to pay.

It is bad enough that single mothers are raising criminals. Maybe if this mother had let the father in on the boy's life, he wouldn't have turned out to be a murderer. Now the mother has a lot of nerve to continue to collect child support while the boy is in prison. It should be called mother support, not child support.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bureaucrats oppose shared parenting

Wendy McElroy writes:
North Dakota's general election in November will probably include a ballot on a Shared Parenting Initiative, a measure that would make joint child custody the default option in cases of divorce or separation unless one parent was proven to be unfit. A petition for SPI's inclusion has the required signatures and is currently being verified.

But the fact that both state and federal officials have come out against the SPI may cause its defeat.
Unfortunately, welfare agencies and other govt bureaucrats profit the most when mother support and child support laws and orders are the most inequitable. If the parents are actually sharing their responsibility, then there is less need for money transfers, and less chance for agencies to get some of that money. So the welfare agencies are lobbying against the N. Dakota law.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Appeal reinstated

I just got this from the appellate court:
Appellant's motion to vacate dismissal is granted. Appellant shall file the record designation in Santa Cruz County Superior Court within 15 days from the date of this order.
This takes some explanation. I appealed a family court order about 6 weeks ago, and I later got this notice, dated Aug 11:
The appellant having failed to procure the record on appeal within the time limits allowed or within any valid extensions of these time limits, and having further failed to apply to this court for relief from default, the appeal filed on July 13, 2006, is dismissed. (See rule 8(b), California Rules of Court.)
After filing the notice of appeal, I am required to designate the record within 15 days. That means telling the family court clerk what pages to xerox and forward to the appellate court.

I never figured out just what the problem was. Maybe I filed the designation a day late. The clerk only complained about the proof of service because I filed it myself. That is, when I tell the clerk what pages to xerox, I am supposed to send a copy of those instructions to my ex-wife, with someone else dropping it into a mailbox. A lawyer or secretary or even a complete stranger can drop it in the mailbox, but I am not supposed to do it myself. A child cannot do it either. So the clerk asked for proof that I wasn't the one who mailed the copy to my ex-wife.

If this sounds crazy, it is. The court rules call it a "proof of service", but it is not a proof of service at all. It is just a silly rule designed for the convenience of lawyers. When someone like myself doesn't use a lawyer, it doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, I don't know whether the appellate court was quibbling about my record designation or my proof of service. Either way, my 15 days was now past, so I filed for an extension. This turned out to be the wrong move, as I got this in return:
Dear Sir/Madam:
Your Request for extension of time to designate record is returned herewith for the following reason(s):
This case was dismissed on August 11, 2006.
Very truly yours,
Okay, I had failed to recite the right mumbo-jumbo. The main function of the appeals court is find silly technicalities that can be used to dismiss cases. They probably really enjoy jerking lawyers around with their silly rules. They probably also find unrepresented parties like myself annoying, because it doesn't do much good to teach them a lesson.

I checked the rules, and I discovered that I had 30 days to file a motion to vacate the dismissal. So I did that, and sent a copy to my ex-wife. The court didn't quibble about the proof of service on that.

The appellate court granted that, and gave me 15 more days to designate the record. I've already designated the record twice, so I don't know why the court didn't just accept that. If those time limits were really for the purpose of moving the case along quickly, then the court could have done things a lot differently.

The clerk probably thinks that he has taught me a lesson. Yeah, he's taught me a lesson alright.