Using Unbundled Legal Services to Keep Evidence in Play in Child Support Court (Part 6)
Hiding assets and income in divorce is a type of fraud this is illegal and disturbingly COMMON.
While Mr. Ex and G'friend (and their attorneys) tried to perpetrate a fraud by hiding and helping hide income from child support payments, I wasn't concerned with them going to jail - I just wanted proper child support payments!
The subpoenas that rendered key evidence in our case had to stay in play!
At my last hearing, I nearly lost it all - putting up the "legal white flag" and requesting time to hire a child support lawyer.
Back to the Family Courts
Mid-May we had a status hearing on: my hiring an attorney, my amended Petition for Modification (AGAIN), the Motion to Quash my subpoenas, and compliance with discovery, (After seeing subpoena results, I requested Mr. Ex's bank records back through January of 2012 to see the flow of money that year.)
Karl, my unbundled legal services child support lawyer, accompanied me.
What a relief to have Karl after flying solo for months!
I can't even put it into words.
It made me want to cry.
Karl got a hearing date for the Motion to Quash the Subpoenas and 28 days to 'amend' my Petition for Modification (so it would have legal legs).
He also convinced the Judge of the relevance of seeing Mr. Ex's financials back to 2012.
October 2012, on the timeline of Mr. Ex hiding income, was the month that Mr. Ex had G'friend file for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) under her name.
As anyone who has ever gotten an EIN number knows, when one person files as sole proprietor (which she did), it's easy peasy and can be done online in minutes.
In the summer of 2012, Mr. Ex acquired a small speedboat (others for sale online cost about $21,000 and this was 2.5 years later).
While this wasn't a million dollar yacht, it was still a $21,000 asset for which he carried no debt or showed any big check out of his account.
Note: I found out that he had a boat, using google maps to see his house. Then I called our state's Department of Natural Resources and found that he had the boat registered in his name. (Private Investigator Suggestions).
Then in October of that same year, he both allegedly sold the boat AND used it to settle a debt.
Although, he continued to have a valid registration with the DNR.
Mr. Ex also submitted, (as part of his discovery) two conflicting documents linked to the boat: One showing a bill of sale and another showing him using it to settle some undisclosed debt.
Hmm - which is it Mr. X - did you sell the boat or use it to settle some undisclosed debt?
Or both? Or neither? Beat in mind that my Google Earth photo of his covered boat docked outside his lake house was from 2013!
With all this interest around the summer/fall of 2012, Mr. Ex NEVER, not even as the case went to trial, EVER submitted any of his bank or credit card statements for the month of October 2012.
I think there was some cash flowing through his accounts that month that he used to purchase equipment for ABC Gear, and conveniently 'forgot' to submit those records.
Yet another court day in our...
Child Support Modification Process
Karl's presentation to the the Judge led him to agree that 2012 financials were relevant.
He then forced Mr. Ex to comply with my Amended Discovery requesting bank statements dating back to January 2012.
On that same day, we had the hearing on the Motion to Quash the subpoenas.
Karl filed his written Response to the Motion to Quash prior to this.
The written response, well in addition to the law degree, are the things that I lacked all along.
For a variety of reasons it wasn't possible for me to write something like that, but you see how things get addressed "point by point."
You can read the full Response to the Motion to Quash, but here you see an excerpt.
6. XXXXXXXXXXX moves to strike Paragraph 6 of the Motion as it states legal and factual conclusions and fails to allege specific facts, and merely states a prayer for relief.
Originally, I was unimpressed with the response; to me, it basically just denied everything that Marty had laid out.
It didn't cover why I did what I did and what it all meant.
However, at that point, I really had no choice but to trust Karl's professional efforts.
I couldn't keep the subpoenas in play any longer on my own.
And if the subpoenas died, my entire case was washed up.
I also figured if things started to nose dive at the hearing, I'd jump in and open my mouth.
Yes, yet another symptom of watching too many episodes of "The Good Wife."
To my great delight, Karl shot their Motion to Quash down very quickly.
Ah, the benefits of a great divorce lawyer.
Despite blowhard Marty, the argument hinged on relevancy.
Were my efforts and their accompanying results relevant to child support?
I had been saying that all along.
I think the Judge needed to hear that from AN ATTORNEY.
He needed to know that a 'professional' had reviewed the case, looked at the evidence gathered, and said, "There's something here."
Equally, the Judge needed to know that all my legal ducks were in a row, according to the letter of the law (i.e., the point-by-point denial written up by Karl).
The next question remained, "What now, now that we've got Mr. Ex all up and down through the results of these couple subpoenas?"
This was only a handful of invoices; how many more could we get? How much money was at stake? And what was the extent of Mr. Ex's involvement?
It was time to 'pierce the veil.'
And it would mean going after the G'friend.
She was the veil between Mr. Ex and ABC Gear.
I was still Pro Se at that point and had only hired Karl to bring my amended child support modification petition up to snuff AND defend my subpoenas.
He spent an inordinate amount of time (and so, my money) on my amended petition encapsulating all that was pertinent to my case - as a divorce document goes, in my non-legal opinion, it's brilliant - so well worth the money.
Karl's version of the child support modification petition includes four counts on which child support should be modified, including the 'concealed income.'
Karl drafted it, and I filed this with the courts. This was early June, nine months since my first motion.
Karl reasoned that the four counts were each powerful on their own AND we hoped to win at least one, if not all.
Of course, within two weeks, Marty filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Petition.
A hearing was scheduled for mid-July.
But what were next steps in getting proof of the concealed income?
Karl and I decided that the best course of action now was to go for the jugular and SUBPOENA ABC Gear directly.
I issued this next subpoena myself (Pro Se), requesting the following:
Copies of all business records for ABC Gear from 1/1/12 to present date: all monthly bank statements with deposit and withdrawal details: complete tax returns for 2012 and 2013: names of all employees, contractors, or any other compensated persons or entities: copies of accounts receivable and payable: copies of all invoices: copies of all business registrations, including, but not limited to, EIN registration, business licenses, plus any other business registrations. (All records 1/1/12 through present date).
I sent this subpoena via certified post along with the $35 witness fee (not making the same mistake twice).
I also emailed it to the address from which G'friend had sent me her 'threatening' email.
And waited. And waited. And WAITED.
The deadline in my subpoena came and went without any response.
In fact, the certified letter was ultimately returned to me.
SERVICE EVASION NUMBER ONE.
There was nothing more for me to do, lest I engage in behavior that could be construed as harassment.
Letting this go wasn't an option.
I needed to see ABC Gear's records, so I retained Karl for the full scope of my case and he reissued the subpoena.
We hired a process server to take it to Mr. X and G'friend's house.
Again, we waited. And waited. And...
Finally an email:
Our process server has attempted service on the G'friend d/b/a ABC Gear at such and such address. Our server stated that he spoke with an unknown male at the property. He advised that the G'friend would be out of town for the next three weeks. He refused to provide any further information. Would you like for our server to make further attempts?
Do you have any further information that may assist with service? Please advise.
Keep trying. I paid for six attempts. Use them all up.
At the time I didn't know where the G'friend worked, so we couldn't serve her there.
And, since the subpoena was issued to ABC Gear, for whom the EIN number was registered under the G'friend, we needed to serve her, not Mr. Ex.
Ultimately, the server was not successful.
SERVICE EVASION NUMBER TWO.
Days later, Karl emailed me.
The G'friend had hired an attorney (Super Bowl Jackie), who agreed to receive the subpoena on her behalf.
At this point Karl recommended we revamp the subpoena to be very narrow and only target a window around the dates of Mr. Ex's Keystone Job.
He felt the Judge was more apt to give us grace on a narrow and specific subpoena, rather than wide sweeping one that looked over two years and included all business records.
Then, based on the results, we could go back and ask for more.
So Karl rewrote the subpoena requesting:
Copies of the following business records involving ABC Gear: all business records involving all jobs, including invoices, copies of payment, call sheets, email correspondence and business contracts or agreements from January 1, 2014 through March 1, 2014; bank records from January 1, 2014 through March 1, 2014; copies of cancelled checks issued to Mr. X issued from September 1, 2013 to the present.
They were given until July 11 to respond.
Haha! Guess what we did then?
We waited some more.
Did they comply? Hell no!
July 11th came and went without any word.
July 14th, three days after the documents were due, we received a Motion to Quash the ABC Gear subpoena. Oy.
Now there were two dogs nipping at our heels: the blowhard Marty and burly Super Bowl Jackie (yes, a woman, but in a hairy lumberjack kind of way).
How I Tripled My Child Support Payments, Including All My Divorce Papers and Court Documents.
Back to Divorce Court
July 15th, we were in front of the Judge on our previously scheduled hearing on the Motion to Dismiss my four count Petition for Modification.
(Yes, again. Fucking again.)
This time, Mr. Ex and Marty tried to force us into mediation based on our Joint Parenting Agreement (That's why I say: get it right the first time).
They claimed that all the things in my petition (based on the original parenting agreement) were required to go through mediation before proceeding to court.
However, in April, I had sent an email to both Mr. Ex and Marty requesting mediation.
At that time, my intention was not to mediate child support, but child custody.
They never responded, of course.
Based on this, the Judge told them that they had "forced me to litigate."
Motion to Dismiss - DENIED.
Instead Mr. Ex and Marty were given 28 days to respond.
Finally (nearly a year after starting this court thing) with Karl's help, my Petition for Modification of Child Support stuck and was now on track to go to trial if we couldn't reach an agreement.
On this same day, Super Bowl Jackie, G'friend's attorney, showed up with her Motion to Quash Subpoenas.
The Judge set a hearing for September.
In the meantime, we didn't receive any ABC Gear records.
Let's discuss the Motion to Quash the ABC Gear subpoena.
You can read all about the many subpoenas I issued to ABC Gear uncovering Mr. Ex's hidden assets and income.
What is interesting in their filing is that Karl and I both tried to serve a subpoena on the G'friend several times in June.
First, I mailed and emailed the subpoena.
Then Karl issued it through a process server, on SIX SEPARATE OCCASSIONS he attempted to serve her at her house (hello, $150 extra fee).
Again, NO DICE.
So, for all practical purposes, they had not received the WIDE SCOPE subpoena that requested records back through 2012.
Reading their Motion to Quash, you'll notice that Super Bowl Jackie used this very subpoena (the wide scope one that they never accepted) as part of her evidence.
...On or about June 2, 2014, XXXXXXXXX caused a subpoena to be served on XXXXXXXXX seeking "Copies of all business records for XXXXXXXXX from 1/1/12 to date; all monthly bank statements with deposit and withdrawal details, complete tax documents for 2012 and 2013, names of all employees...
Wait a minute!?!?!?
She did receive the subpoena!
OK; she got it, but then chose not to comply!
What did she think, I would just give up and go away?
Also, in their Motion, they cite a police report regarding a certain phone call as evidence of my "harassment."
The real scoop is that on July 1, my mother (who had watched me go through this whole thing - not only the initial divorce, but also now this) had had enough.
More importantly, she watched my son suffer the confusion and grief of being fatherless.
My mom called Mr. Ex and left a menacing voicemail with some garbled Eastern European blah blah blah about him being soul-less, mindless, monster...
Now, my mom can be scary when she yells.
At four feet eleven, she's got a voice that shatters glass and long-ass birdlike nails.
But she's also a be-dentured 70-year old with a Dolly Parton rack.
So while I feel their pain, the police report is over the top.
This, coupled with the air let out of the tires thing, just seems like laughable, grasping at straws.
The air may have been let out of G'friend's tires for all I know, but not by me, and certainly not when we live 60 miles apart.
Trust me; if I had driven 60 miles to their house, I would have done more than just let the air out of her tires.
Side note: there's something to be said for the emotional jolt that goes along with reading accusations – be they true or false – when they're drafted by an attorney and signed. And, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that it's a common strategy used by attorneys to psych you out.
Additionally, time and again, G'friend claimed no financial affiliation between herself and Mr. Ex.
However, the fact remained, that in February of 2014, Mr. Ex worked a job for which ABC Gear collected his paycheck.
And, given that the tax ID number for ABC Gear is in the G'friend's name, she got the money.
Hmmmm, no financial affiliation?!
I call "bullshit."
Divorce Checklist Lessons:
- While all of these court proceedings and motions are flying around, there are other things happening in the background that help gather information pertinent to the case: interrogatories, requests for production (evidence from the opposing party), and requests to admit. Your attorney will use these important documents/processes to strategically gather the facts and guide the evidence to a conclusion that proves your petition requests.
- Interrogatories: formal questions issued to the opposing party designed to establish facts. The answering party signs an affidavit that they are answering them under oath. I used these to not only establish things such as the existence of Mr. X's previous equipment rental company, but also get him to admit to working the job where he transferred his earnings to ABC Gear. The basic questions, coupled with more specific ones, were designed to prove the facts or cause Mr. X to lie.
- Think long and hard about what you're trying to accomplish with the Interrogatories and, if you're using an attorney, discuss this with her/him. You need to be strategic in designing these questions. Federal Rule 33 states, "Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a party may serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts. Leave to serve additional interrogatories may be granted to the extent consistent with Rule 26(b)(1) and (2)." I went way past the 25-question limit. Luckily, the Judge compelled Mr. X to answer the two he skipped, which happened to be the most important questions for my case.
- Requests for Production (RFP): a formal request for documents such as bank records, tax documents, proof of vehicle ownership, bills, etc.
- There is a standard list of things requested on an RFP. Think about what your strategy is and ask for items that support it. For example, Mr. X was lying. I needed to prove that, to draw Mr. X out of his shell. So, I asked for things that I knew Mr. X would either have to admit to, or lie about. Either he'd help me prove my case or expose his dishonest testimony. For example, I knew he had a speedboat. I had gotten the registration for the boat from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources). He claimed he sold it, which was a lie. So I asked for proof of sale. He stupidly submitted two strange and conflicting 'documents': one saying he sold the boat, and the other saying he transferred it to settle a debt. These documents made him look less than credible before the Judge. He struggled to explain his way out of these two conflicting documents.
- Request to Admit: questions that are used to establish facts and genuineness of documents. We used these questions to establish Mr. X's cellphone number (the same number found on ABC Gear invoices). We also asked him to admit to call sheets, cancelled checks from his former equipment rental company, and other documents. Again, Karl used all of these things to shed light on Mr. X's credibility and to paint the landscape of Mr. X, his finances, ABC Gear and his G'friend.
Child Support Modification Documents Mentioned in this Part
The Court entered document that lays out parenting time and responsibilities. Does not include financial details.
A request for production is a legal request for documents and an integral part of the very important discovery process in divorce. It's used to gather evidence, as well proof of assets and income, of each of the spouses. A good attorney will use a request for production to strategically support their case. In my case, I issued the first round of Request for Production myself, without an attorney.
I issued a handful of subpoenas to deepen the proof of Mr. Ex's hidden income. His attorney then filed a motion to block those subpoenas and the evidence they produced. Running my case DIY divorce style was challenging since I had no knowledge of the divorce and court process. Mr. Ex's attorney used this against me by attacking me on technicalities.
At this point I had accumulated some very compelling evidence that Mr. Ex had hidden income. Mr. Ex's attorney ramped up the pressure against those subpoenas, filing a second motion. At this point, I was super lucky to find a divorce attorney who worked with me delivering unbundled services. This lawyer helped me keep the subpoenas and evidence in play.
I also used this divorce lawyer to rewrite my Petition for Child Support Modification. He did an amazing job. If you read his Petition and compare it to mine. He did a great job of listing out the changes in circumstances and reasons to modify child support payments.
This is the very thing that makes the divorce process, or child support modification process, take soooo long. If you and your ex cannot agree, you end up with the lawyers filing motions and responses and blah blah blahs - and having court hearings about every little detail. I'm not saying to agree to things that are wrong, just be aware that this is where your dollars get sucked up in the huge vacuum cleaner called divorce.