Friday, February 23, 2007

Britney Spears

Britney Spears is facing a child custody battle with her ex-husband K-Fed. Legal experts are saying that despite her widely-publicized bizarre behavior, drug problems, and dangerous baby handling, she has little to fear. California family courts favor the mom enough, and her behavior just isn't bad enough.

I am guessing that she'll at least have to promise to enter and complete rehab, and to hire a nanny with good credentials.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stipulated continuances are too common

In court on Wednesday, I saw that the judge had a notice outside his court describing new procedures for trials. He complained that half of his trials are canceled at the last minute, aggravating his backlog. Half of those cancellations are caused by settlements, and the other half by "stipulated continuances". He find the latter particularly annoying, so now requires pre-trial confirmation conferences in order to try to reduce them.

It is indeed a bad sign when there are a lot of stipulated continuances. It is extremely rare for both parties in a trial to really want a delay. These delays are really for the convenience of the lawyers, not the parties. I would bet that 9 times out of 10, a stipulated continuance is a sign that the lawyer is acting contrary to his client's interests.

Most of the family lawyers in town are scared of trials. They will happily burn 1000s of dollars on trial preparation, but when it comes time to actually have a trial, they run like frightened puppies. People often assume that lawyer are comfortable going to trial, but it is often false.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another wasted day in court

I just got out of a status conference in family. My ex-wife and I were the first ones up, after some procedural matters. Neither of us had a lawyer. My ex-wife's ex-lawyer happened to be in the court, but she said nothing.

The judge said that we had each asked for things that he cannot do at an
8:30 am status conference. I had asked for a child support order adjustment to reflect my ex-wife's new job, and the judge said that I had to make a motion. My ex-wife had claims that could only be settled by trial. The judge said that he could schedule a trial, or he could move the case into some sort of limbo awaiting action from us.

My ex-wife said that the judge ought to at least order me to pay $6,500 that was previously ordered, because my appeal is technically defective. The judge asked if we had oral arguments scheduled, and I said that the appeals court will hear it next month. The judge said that if it were earlier in the appeals process, he might try to intervene, but now we should wait for the appeals court to rule in April or May.

I was surprised that the judge even said that, as it would be quite improper for the judge to intervene on any issue that is pending in an appellate court. This judge already ruled on the $6,500 a couple of times already, and it is out of his hands.

My ex-wife complained that it might take a year of discovery to prove her allegations about her money. In particular, she complained that she doesn't even have a complete list of my accounts. I agreed to give her a list of accounts in the next week, without a formal discovery request.

My ex-wife was frustrated by the judge's refusal to declare who had the burden of proof in resolving the remaining financial matters. She dreaded the task of spending many months tracing money, only to have her efforts wasted when her proof falls short. If she could just get the judge to say that I had the burden of proof, then she would have nothing to lose by requesting a trial. I'd have to do all the work accounting for the money, and if my worksheets don't add up, then she would have a shot at getting half the difference at a trial. She appeared to be very unhappy with the outcome.

The judge asked again if we wanted him to schedule another appearance. I said that this case has been going on for three years so far, and none of my ex-wifes claims have had any merit. I would like to be on a path towards resolving the case. The judge scheduled another appearance on April 25. At that time, he said that he could schedule a trial in August.

The judge apparently got my status memo okay, and didn't say anything about my defective proof of service. I had sent it in early, with a self-signed proof of service. The clerk sent it back, saying that it was rejected because I signed the proof of service myself. I didn't have a chance to get someone else to sign the proof of service, so I just mailed my status memo back to the clerk, with no proof of service at all.

Common sense would seem to imply that it is better for me to sign the proof of service myself, than to have some random stranger sign it. Common sense would also seem to imply that a technically defective proof of service is better than none at all. You might also think that an official form titled "proof of service" has proving service as its principal purpose. Actually the proof of service has an obscure bureaucratic function that makes no sense when lawyers are not involved.

I will make the account list for my ex-wife, and I'll find out in two months whether she really wants a trial.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Requesting another oral argument

I just got another notice that I can request an oral argument before the court of appeal. I am sending in the form today for oral argument, just as I did before.

I have an oral argument scheduled for next month. I would have preferred that the arguments were consolidated, or that I could wait until I see whether next month's oral argument is a waste of time. My guess is that the appellate court doesn't see non-lawyers like myself arguing family court cases very often, and it is not looking forward to having to listen to me twice in one year.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ex-wife's court status memo

I just got a status memo from my ex-wife, in anticipation of seeing the judge next week. She now demands:
Petitioner respectfully requests the Court to do the following:
1. Rule on whose burden it is to prove Respondent's separate property contribution to the family home in order to ease issues in preparation for an inevitable trial;
2. Reserve jurisdiction of intellectual property issues; and
3. Order Respondent to once again pay the $6,500 to Bosso Williams law firm plus 10% interest calculated from the date payment was due
She filed for the divorce over 3 years ago. All this stuff should have already been resolved long ago. I hope that another trial is not inevitable.

The $6,500 is under appeal, and the local judge has no say over it. I have no idea what he'll say about the other issues. He ought to just terminate the case, as none of her arguments have any merit, as far as I can see.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rejecting my proof of service

I just got a notice from the local family court, rejecting my status memo for the next scheduled court appearance. The deputy clerk said, "Reason for return: parties can't do any type of service to one another."

The rules require filing a status memo before a family court status conference in court. It is just a brief page reminding the judge of what is going on in the case. In practice, the rule is only enforced on lawyers.

In court, I often hear the judge lecturing some lawyer for not filing a status memo. Occasionally, some lawyer will complain that he didn't file it because the previous judges did not enforce that rule, and he thought that it was unnecessary. The judge then threatens him with a $500 fine, and that is the end of that discussion.

I mailed the status memo to the court and to my ex-wife. I included a "proof of service" swearing that I mailed it to my ex-wife. She acknowledged receiving it. But that is not good enough, because the clerk wants a piece of paper saying that some stranger dropped the status memo in the mailbox.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Notice of oral arguments

I just got notice that the appellate court will hear oral arguments on March 6.

I actually have two appeals pending. I figured that the appellate court would just consolidate them. But I've heard nothing about the other case.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Paying for someone else's kid

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Sixteen months after his divorce, Richard Parker made a devastating discovery. A DNA test revealed that his 3-year-old son had been fathered by someone else.

Mr. Parker immediately filed a lawsuit claiming fraud by his apparently unfaithful ex-wife. He took his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

Last week, the Florida justices ruled 7-0 against him. They said that Parker must continue to pay $1,200 a month in child support because he had missed the one-year postdivorce deadline for filing his lawsuit. His court-ordered payments would total more than $200,000 over 15 years to support another man's child.

"We find that the balance of policy considerations favors protecting the best interests of the child over protecting the interests of one parent defrauded by the other parent in the midst of a divorce proceeding," writes Justice Kenneth Bell for the court.

"We recognize that the former husband in this case may feel victimized," he writes. He then quotes a scholar to explain the ruling: "While some individuals are innocent victims of deceptive partners, adults are aware of the high incidence of infidelity and only they, not the children, are able to act to ensure that the biological ties they may deem essential are present."

In effect, the high court is saying it's partly Parker's fault for trusting his wife.
No, the court is saying something worse. The court is saying that the former husband was able to ensure biological ties, that that is plainly not true. The court is forcing financial ties to child with no biological ties.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Father cannot discuss religion

Law prof Volokh writes:
In December, a New York appellate court held that Daniel should be allowed supervised visitation after his parole expires this summer. But the court also upheld, in the name of "the best interest of the children," the trial court's order that Daniel not discuss with the children "any issues pertaining to his religion." ...
The father may be a Mohammedan kook, but the judge is still overextending his authority when he prohibits a man from discussing his religion.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Arrest warrant for skipping class

Seattle crime news:
The Jan. 26 robbery attempt happened about 9 p.m. ... Authorities identified the robber as Samuel S. Curry, 21, of Renton, a father who was named in an arrest warrant for missing court-ordered domestic violence therapy.
Curry was shot and killed after robbing someone on the street of $4.

I am not going to defend Curry, but it is news to me that the police issue arrest warrants just because someone misses a domestic violence class.

In my case, I am not sure whether I was ever ordered to attend therapy or parenting classes or not. The family court judges here have a very hard time making themselves clear. They just implied that I had to do it to see my kids. The classes were a complete waste of time. It never occurred to me that I could get arrested for skipping class.