I spent all yesterday morning in Judge Heather D. Morse's court. I thought that the 8:30 am motions had to finish by 10:00, but these motions dragged on and on. My case was not called until 1:30 pm, after lunch.
Judge Morse seems to let the cases with lawyers go first. The first case was a Mexican couple fighting over child support. Both parents had lawyers, and there was a Spanish interpreter as well. The dad said that he worked two restaurant jobs. When asked how long he had these jobs, he said he had one for 25 years and one for 12 years. At one point the mom blurted out "he's lying". The admonished her for being "not helpful", and said that she was sure that each can say bad things about the other. At another point, the mom's lawyer said, "I believe that we filed an income and expense statement." When the judge could not find the statement, the lawyer said, "When I say 'I believe', I mean that I don't know whether we filed it or not."
I am always amazed at how useless these lawyers are. They are supposed to file income and expense statements for a child support motion. If he does not even know whether a statement was filed, what could he possible know about the case? Neither lawyer appeared to know anything about the case. The judge collected the info by asking the parents directly. If a client claims that the other side is lying, then the lawyer should find out what the issue is and contest it. But I don't think that her lawyer even learned what was allegedly the lie. It was not clear that the lawyers and clients even speak the same language.
Considering that the dad's income was long-term wage income, I don't see that there was any legitimate reason to waste the court's time. The only thing that was slightly unusual was that some of the restaurant income was seasonal. But they could have just divided his annual income by twelve.
The next case had a mom with a baby. The judge made a point of saying that the baby was "adorable".
Another case was a child support case, with both sides having doubts about the other's reported income. The mom was a real estate agent, with a lot of home office expenses. The dad was working for his mom's business, and could have been underreporting income. The judge could not cope with any of this. I think that they should just use IRS figures, and avoid these hopeless arguments.
The dad did not show up for the next case. The mom had some complaint about getting him to pay for half the medical expenses. The judge suggested getting DCSS help for enforcement, and said that they could take away his drivers license.
A dad wanted his spousal and child support adjusted in the next case, because the mom had just a Social Security award. She is now getting $1032.70 per month for being permanently "totally disabled". The kid is 16 and also gets $516 disability checks. She had no obvious disability. About a half an hour was wasted while the judge tried to figure out how to enter the disability payments into the Dissomaster program. She ended up entering it as "other taxable income" which I don't think is correct. More time was wasted when she exited the program without saving her work. It was painful and tedious.
Then was another case with lawyers arguing about child support. One lawyer admitted that he does not understand how to use the Dissomaster program. It sounded pathetic, but the program really is unnecessarily confusing for a case like his. The parents had three kids. The oldest hates the mom, and lived 100% with the dad. The next one lives with the mom. They had joint custody of the youngest. That was weird, but apparently a court interview of the kids confirmed the matter, and it was not disputed.
With only the slightest justification, the judge lectured them, "neither of you should be talking to your children about the divorce. You are ruining your children, and giving them scars that they don't need." I guess that she feels strongly about that.
At one point the lawyer complained that the dad is supposed to get the kid from 2:30 to 8:00, but the mom usually does not provide the kid until 3:00, so he wanted 3:00 to 8:30. The mom's lawyer mumbled something about working it out out-of-court, and the dad's lawyer dropped the matter. I don't understand why these lawyers are so feeble. He could have just asked for permission to return the kid a half hour late if he gets the kid a half hour late. Such a request would have been likely granted. As it is, he got nothing. Then when the judge announced a 20-minute break, he said, "enjoy your break, your honor".
After the break, the judge joked about needing a ten-year-old to help with computer skills in running the Dissomaster program.
The next couple had some parenting issues about their 16 year old daughter. The mom didn't like the dad asking some nosy questions. The dad caught the girl being somewhere that she was not supposed to be after being grounded for getting busted for smoking. The judge said that the parents need to "address their inability to communicate" and lectured the dad for rolling his eyes. The judge also told the dad that he needs to build a better relationship with the daughter before imposing discipline, and he did not realize how much the girl had grown up. The judge said that the discipline needs to be in a therapeutic setting, and suggested counseling.
This seemed like yet another case where the court was directly causing harm. Lack of paternal discipline is the single biggest cause of teenaged girls becoming juvenile delinquents. The dad has known and loved this girl for 16 years, and knows what to do to set her straight. The judge knows nothing about the situation, and just recites some psycho mumbo jumbo. This girl obviously needs her dad to have more authority over her, not less. Attending parenting classes when the girl is already a 16 year old delinquent is idiotic.
A woman came forward next with a no-fault divorce. She swore that the marriage was irreparable. Her husband was not there. The divorce papers would be final in a couple of months, and the judge said that no further appearance was needed.
Next a mom complained about safety concerns about the dad and their kids, aged 13 and 15. She complained about guns, drugs, and a convicted felon roommate. He denied that there were any guns or drugs in his house, altho he did say that he likely to shoot at the gun range. He said that she was overreacting because of previous hostility. The judge suggested mediation with Chip Rose or Commissioner Joseph. I cannot imagine two worse choices. The couple ended up saying that they would use Michael Scott.
The last big case was former NFL cornerback Reggie Stephens. He played four years in the NFL, and a couple of years of arena football, and has a 6-year-old child with a woman that he was with for 5 years. She did not believe that he was really broke. He made good money playing football, but has not had a steady job since 2007. He sounded very credible, and agreed to supply all his bank statements and other info. At one point, she said "is getting paid under the table legal?" The judge explained that it was not. He said that he sometimes made some extra cash by helping a local high school football coach. The amounts were not large anyway. The mom also complained about music performances, but it did not sound as if he made any money doing that.
My case finally came at 1:30, before some sort of trial. Nothing of consequence was decided. Maybe I will post the details another day. The day was a horrible waste of time, except that I did learn what sort of a judge the new family court judge is.