Watch Me Take The Bar
Watch Me Take The Bar
This blog, originally started as a chronicle of my taking the bar, is now a look into the mind of an attorney in solo practice in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Monday, September 12, 2005

What I'll Be Doing Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I'll be in court.

Now, doon't anyone worry on my account. I'm not going to attempt to practice law without a license.

And, no, I'm not in any personal danger.

On the other hand, if the case I'll be watching is any indication, we're all in danger. Because, if an alien showed up to review this case, they might very well conclude our family court system is a miserable failure, where good behavior is ignored, bad behavior is rewarded, common sense is out the window, logic is turned on its head, and justice is banished to Outer Slobbovia.

I have a dear friend who is in the process of getting divorced. To give you an idea of how long this has been going on, it was filed the first week I was in law school. (That's three years ago, folks.)

There's plenty -- plenty! -- to talk about in this case, and believe you me, at an appropriate time, it needs to be talked about. But I'm going to try to surgically focus in on the only reason for tomorrow.

It might surprise you to know this court appearance has nothing to do with my friend getting divorced.

Rather, it has to do with a lawyer who needs money.

Custody was contested in my friend's divorce case, and a guardian ad litem by the name of Jill Hayes was appointed. A guardian ad litem is a person who is appointed to "advocate for the best interests of the children."

Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. See, the guardian ad litem system is fraught with flaws and ethical pratfalls at every turn, and one of the most obvious is that it is often difficult to identify what a guardian ad litem's job is.

Frankly, after watching this woman's performance in my friend's case, I was moved to write a sixty-page paper for my writing credits on the guardian ad litem system and the problems therein. And, I can safely report that, in the casino of GAL problems, Jill Hayes was a one-woman jackpot.

She passed information about what an abused woman was saying on to the abuser.

She completely failed to understand the full scope of domestic violence -- that it can include words said, funds withheld, actions taken.

She minimized important events.

She seemed to be unable to hold more than two facts in her head at once.

She ignored evidence that didn't support the position she wanted to take.

She admitted in court that, after two years on the case, she had never realized my friend was a good mother.

Said -- on the record (want page numbers? want line numbers? I can give 'em to you) that, until the divorce started, the father "didn't spend much time with the children. He didn't. They were starved for his attention. And they seem to have it now. And they want it. They're just like little sponges sucking up that, that attention and that love that they're feeling from him. And they've gotten a father.

"And sometimes that happens in divorce proceedings, where you have one parent that was an absent parent during most of the marriage, and then once a divorce starts, they spend time with their children and the children tend to drift towards that and want that because they've never had it before. They've always had a mom, but they never had a dad. Now they have both. "

You silly guardian. Tricks are for kids, and Disneyland dads who use money and show up just as divorce papers are being filed to "spend time with their children" so that "the children tend to drift towards that and want that because they've never had it before."

Jill, Jill, Jill. Back here in reality, we refer to that as alienation.

You get an idea what my friend was up against. (No, actually, you don't. You get the tip of the iceberg. But, I swear to God, more of that iceberg needs to -- and will be -- revealed.)

Oops. I got off track.

Frequently, GALs are attorneys, as Jill Hayes is. And, when attorneys serve as guardians ad litem, what do they like? The same thing ALL attorneys be paid!

So, when a GAL gets appointed to your case, both parents have to put down a thousand dollar deposit to be drawn against as the guardian (hopefully) performs his or her investigation. The guardian then bills and slowly reduces the deposit, which is then replenished by demands from the guardian for further deposits.

Sounds equitable, doesn't it?

Yeah, except when, as in my friend's case, Dad makes twenty times as much as mom.

And, Dad sends daily emails to the guardian. (Actually, Jill Hayes admitted in court that she based her findings on having had 90% of her information coming from Dad. Wow, surprising that she sided with Dad, wasn't it?)

So, at the end of my friend's custody trial last year, Jill pointed out that she needed more money. My friend's attorney objected on the grounds that, well, my friend's husband (can't call him an ex yet, can we, since they're not divorced) makes TWENTY TIMES AS MUCH AS HER.

The judge said they had just distributed the property and my friend got most of the property.

Apparently, he didn't factor in that almost all of the property had liens on it.

Well, as I mentioned before, the divorce isn't finalized in any way, shape, form, manner or means. No property has changed hands. In fact, the order giving custody of my friend's kids to their dad (after all, only one in four of his emails to my friend were abusive, and anyway, when you say "I'm going to kill you," that's okay so long as it's family. Why do people take this out of context?) is still only temporary, and hence unappealable. In effect, my friend has been dropped down a black hole from which she cannot get out. Her life is on hold.

But, according to Jill's logic, no reason for her to be. Jill Hayes wants her money!

My friend has politely declined, thus far, to pay the thousand dollars, waiting for the property distribution that has yet to come.

Jill Hayes, by contrast, is far less patient. And she has more weapons than my friend, who must wait for a magistrate to sign papers.

Jill has filed a motion to have my friend held in contempt of court for not paying her her money yet.

Take a memo, Jill. My friend hasn't gotten hers, either.

Oh, and Jill would like my friend to do thirty days in jail for having the temerity to not pay her the thousand dollars my friend doesn't have.

Now, understand, the odds of my friend going to jail are between slim and none. It ain't happening. (Although, if you'd seen what I'd seen in this case, you'd understand why it wouldn't seem completely out of the realm of possibility.)

I'm going tomorrow because what has been perpetrated is nothing short of a travesty, owing in very large part to Jill Hayes' mishandling of the case.

I'm going to the courthouse tomorrow in search of justice. It would be nice if some showed up; it hasn't been evident yet in this case.

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