Family Law Unraveled
The latest from Margaret's blog
One Little Lie
Friday, August 03, 2012
I was sitting in court yesterday, thinking about the incredible waste of time, money and resources one little lie can cause. My client has custody of his teenage daughter. She decided, as teenagers will, that life at her Mom’s house was more exciting, so she went there and wouldn’t come home. My client tried to retrieve her, Mom resisted, and other family members got involved in a big (verbal) tussle. My client called the cops. The cops came and interviewed everyone. The daughter said she didn’t want to go back to Dad’s. The cops explained to my client that they couldn’t force her to go with him, and advised him to go to family court and file a petition for contempt of the custody order. Then they and my client left. Case closed, or should’ve been.
But Mom must have been mad, because she marched down to family court and filed a petition to get a protection order against my client, alleging that he had assaulted their daughter during this incident. He hadn’t, and I’m sure of it, because I spoke to both the cops who were there and had talked to everyone, including the daughter, and no one told them anything about an assault – the only issue anyone mentioned was whether the girl could stay at Mom’s or not. Regardless, Mom filed a petition, got a temporary protection order against Dad, and a hearing was scheduled.
That’s where I entered the picture. My client, a guy who works two jobs, cooking by day and cleaning offices by night, come to my office and met with me (paid for a consultation); hired me (paid a retainer); and took the day off from work for court (lost wages from two jobs). I had to subpoena the two police officers (fees paid to the city) and get the police reports (fees paid to the police department). The officers had to come to court the day of the hearing (paid overtime). The hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Mom was a no-show. But my client, the officers and I waited in court until almost 10 a.m. in order to satisfy the court that Mom wasn’t going to come, and then we had a brief hearing so the judge could take the testimony necessary to dismiss Mom’s petition for lack of prosecution (salaries paid to judge, court reporter, court officers, court administrative staff, rent and utilities for family court building, etc. etc.) Then we left.
My client had been pretty sure from the beginning that his ex wasn’t going to show up, because he knew that she knew what she had alleged in her petition a) wasn’t true, and b) she wouldn’t be able to prove it in court. She just wanted to punish him. And she did, very effectively, as well as the rest of us taxpayers who were footing the bill for the cops and the court personnel. The ripple effect is huge. And there’s no remedy; since she didn’t show up, there was no hearing on the merits of her petition, so no record was created from which the court could determine that she was in fact lying. The petition was dismissed because she failed to appear. Sigh.
About that contempt petition my client filed: the hearing isn’t scheduled until October. And his daughter still hasn’t come home.