Monday, June 08, 2009

Before the new judge

I appeared before the new local family court judge, Judge John S. Salazar.

About 50 minutes was wasted on a case about a stockbroker's signing bonus. He switched from Morgan Stanley to UBS, and somehow got a $691k loan from UBS. The loan is scheduled to be gradually forgiven over a period of nine years, and thus each year's forgiveness would be taxed like a bonus to his income.

Both the stockbroker and his wife were represented by lawyers. The wife's lawyer wanted an immediate piece of the $691k. The husband was willing to pay alimony and child support on it, but only as it becomes income.

The wife's lawyer has already run up $141k in bills pursuing this $691k. She did depositions of him and his employer to get the particulars on it. The judge ended up ordering the husband to put 40% of it in escrow, pending a trial in Sept.

The next case was another couple where both parents had lawyers. The lawyers launched into a bunch of rambling about various child handoff procedures. One issue seemed to involve who was going to open the car door to let the kid out. I didn't get it. I was unable to see that there was any actual dispute that the judge could do anything about. The judge could not find any dispute either. Eventually he dismissed them and asked them not to come back.

I really don't understand how someone can hire a lawyer to make a court motion, and then not to be able to articulate what the court is being asked to do. I could not even figure out which parent brought the motion.

The next case was a couple that had been divorced for five years or so, but apparently had some disputes that got them to a local shrink named Muccilli. The mom had primary custody, and Muccilli wrote some recommendations that formalized some custody arrangements that had previously been done informally. Both the mom and dad had lawyers.

The main dispute that brought them to court was that the dad takes the 12-year-old daughter on weekend ski trips a couple of times a year. The mom wanted the judge to modify Muccilli's recommendations to put a couple of conditions on the ski trips. She did not object to the ski trips, but babbled about the driving and the sleeping arrangements. She said that he likes to get an early start so that they can ski all day Saturday and Sunday. The judge tried to get the dad to acknowledge her concerns, but he didn't get it. He did say that he complied with the mom's wishes on the last ski trip, and they won't being going skiing until next winter. He wanted some joint coparent counseling, but the mom refused. Eventually the judge put something into Muccilli's recommendations. My impression was that if the dad had just acknowledged the mom's concerns, the judge would not have bothered. As for the driving, the judge asked who was doing the driving for the kid exchanges, and it turned out that the dad was doing all the driving. Since the mom was complaining about the driving, the judge told her to do half the driving. She would have been better off not complaining about the driving.

After 1.5 hours, the judge called our case. He was not interested in what either of us had to say. He said that he was overwhelmed by the fact that our court file comprises six volumes, and he doesn't understand why we file court papers instead of cooperating in child rearing. He said that he could not do anything about what has already been decided, and that he doesn't know if that was done reasonably or not.

I explained that I was not asking him to change anything that had been decided. The previous order was just temporary, and I was never supposed to lose visitation. I was just asking for the visitation that had been ordered.

He said that he cannot order the psychologist to do an evaluation if she did not want to. Since he did not know what to do, he was referring us back to Commissioner Joseph to deal with it.

I didn't say this, but as a practical matter he can force the psychologist to do the evaluation. Elizabeth Lee charges $7,000 in advance to do an evaluation, and she says that it takes her 40 hours of work. That is good money for a Santa Cruz psychologist. She told the court that she was "unable" to do our evaluation, but that is obviously false since she has done other evaluations since then. Judge Salazar could just tell her that she is not getting any more court referrals until she finishes the evaluation that was already ordered in our case. That would solve the problem. I am really surprised that these spineless judges put up with such lame excuses from these flaky psychologists.

Nobody said anything about sealing the reports. I assume that the judge was refusing the grant the motion, but maybe he just ignored those papers. I don't know.

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