It's no secret that I have no sympathy for deadbeat dads (DBDs). My momma depended on those child support payments and my dad took pride in his estranged responsibilities. However, I recently rep'd a DBD. I know, I know, why Disney??? Well, let's just say I did it for a friend. And money. Disney's gotta eat too...
This particular DBD is far from the worst-of-the-worst. He has, in fact, paid a substantial amount of support since his divorce was final, but the past couple of years he has significantly slacked. Significant = $75,000. Don't worry, no one is starving and these kids are not suffering, but I appreciate the frustration of the Ex.
As expected, his Ex filed for Contempt (2nd time) for his failure to produce the funds. Contempt is a Divorce Lawyers (DL) nightmare. Contempt cases are quasi-criminal, which means, the defendant can get locked up. Hauled off. Escorted to the big house. I do not practice criminal law for a very good reason - I DO NOT want to be responsible for another person's freedom. I'm a stress ball au natural so the additional pressure is not good for my soul, or my blood pressure. Unfortunately, I was already in too deep to pawn him off on a more willing DL so I handled it like a boss. Boss = not sleeping for days, studying similar hearing transcripts and memorizing any possible statute or case law that may be in any way referenced. And a whole lot of Diet Coke.
So D-day comes, my perfect pantsuit freshly pressed and I looked like a million bucks. I was way too early, because it's not like I slept anyway, and then we sat. We sat for 7 hours. We were the very last case heard. FYI, I'm usually in and out in less than 2 hours, so this was rough. I spent those hours consoling my client, reviewing my notes, and convincing myself that I had a really good case. For you new comers, I am extremely susceptible to myself.
So, finally, we are called. First, the judge called us [me and my less-daper opposing counsel (OPC)] into chambers. Chambers are cool and make you feel super important, until you realize you're about to lose. Then chambers are the third level of hell because your client isn't even there to hear the judge explain why she already hates him. Okay, fine, she didn't say "hate" but trust that I could see it in her eyes.
In a nutshell, it was downhill from there. All of my well-rehearsed-in-my-bathroom-mirror arguments were worthless when I was stopped by the hand and shushed like a preschooler. She, the judge, wanted him locked up. That's right... big house. Let me clearly state that my client would not fare well in that environment. I was terrified. Then we all exited hell and returned to our stage. Luckily, judge decided on other penalties for the failure to support and a stern warning that next time, he'd be in the cage. When I say "stern" I mean "mean." I'm pretty sure he cried. I know I almost did. I could feel my olive skin turning beet red and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Defeat. That's all I felt. I left the Courthouse feeling the emotional equivalence to the loser in the Vegas boxing ring. It sucked.
Bright side (cause there always is one): it can never be that bad again. I mean... it just can't. I have tasted defeat and it was bitter. I'd rather eat cilantro and I f*$#ing HATE cilantro. Next time I will refuse the DBD, or tell him to just abide by the order. For goodness sake people, if there's one rule you should always follow, it's the one made by the person with the power to take away your freedom.