Tuesday, February 22, 2011

He believes he won.

At first glance, that title sounds almost...annoyed.  Or sarcastic.  Or something less-than-complimentary.

It's really not.  To be quite honest, that's the best summation of today's events, and I'm happy with it.

Today was the hearing for Bro's appeal of the child support finding.

I was half-relieved this morning to hear that the court was operating on schedule (we had enough snow that there was no school today), and half disappointed.  I was nervous about having to go back to court, especially since this particular case is me v. Bro, not Hubby and me v. Bro.  Which meant that Hubby would have to sit in the gallery while I sat up front with the DRS staff lawyer, Bro, the court reporter, the bailiff, the security guard, and the judge.

The judge hearing the appeal is the same judge who heard our custody complaint.

We arrived on time, and sat down in the gallery.  It was very interesting.  We listened as a number of defendants stood before the judge, all of them delinquent on child support for one reason or another.  Hubby commented at one point, in a whisper, that he ought to bring teen boys to watch these kinds of proceedings, and remind them that this is what could happen if they don't keep their pants zipped.  There were several defendants who had multiple cases of support delinquency.

Bro was almost a half hour late, which was okay, mainly because the judge was still hearing contempt charges.  The last case before ours was almost comical.  I thought the defendant was almost as verbose as Bro, and nearly as sure that he was in the right, as he informed the judge that the receptionist at Domestic Relations had told him that three filed papers would bring him current...after the judge had already ruled that he was at least 7 in arrears.  (Doofus.  First rule of appearing in court...you cannot fight the judge in her own courtroom and expect to win.  It just won't happen.)

Our hearing was scheduled for 10.  We didn't get before the judge until 11.  She apologized for the delay, and the hearing moved forward.

It ended up taking an entire hour, which I hadn't quite expected.  Then again, Bro's company's method of pay calculation is on the high end of weird, almost to the point of downright quirky.  That alone probably took twenty minutes to explain.  When Bro had finished with his remarks regarding his complaint and the requested reasons for the appeal--namely, that my income and SIL's income were not considered, and that his pay had decreased since the original support hearing--the judge asked some questions, and then turned it over to the DRS staff attorney who was representing me.

In regards to his first complaint, there are two factors: one, SIL is not even a party to the action that he's appealing.  It's me v. him, not me v. him and her.  (I had filed against SIL, but upon learning that it was going to be exceedingly complicated because of her military service and that I could end up with the same, more money, or less money, I opted to go with the known quantity of what the Army is currently requiring SIL to pay in child support.  So I asked for the filing against SIL to be dismissed.)  Two, our county's rules for findings of support in the case where the plaintiff is a 3rd party to the biological parents (which I am) state that the 3rd party's income is set as zero, as that party is not a biological parent, and then the incomes of each parent are separately considered (as had been done in our case, with a filing against each parent).  Domestic Relations then takes the total obligation that they have determined, and cuts it in half.  Thus, the 3rd party gets 50% from each parent.  So he's only paying half of his determined total obligation.

That left his claim that he's making less money, and on top of that, his wages are being garnished in addition to the child support.

And that's when the DRS staff attorney proved her weight in gold.  She systematically went through his argument, by the math, and showed that, despite his decreased hours, he's really making more now than he was at the time of the original hearing on support, and that his other garnishment is really only 10-11% of his total gross.  Erego, he's not really as hard up as he's claiming.

The judge then asked the attorney how she would like to have this handled.  The judge didn't think that the 10-11% in additional garnishment was necessarily a hardship on Bro, and wasn't inclined to rule that his support amount be reduced by $100-200 like Bro was requesting.  The judge also asked how much debt Bro had and how long he expected the payments to be garnished out of his wages.

The attorney said that she felt that either the support amount could be recalculated or that there could be a slight waiver, but she didn't feel that a 10-11% garnishment was a huge hardship.

The judge then informed Bro that she would be willing to offer him an additional 5% deviation on his support for the time that his wages are under the additional garnishment...if I would agree to it.  She then posed that question to the DR staff attorney, who said she could certainly ask if the plaintiff would be willing.

The attorney turned to me.  I quickly said, "I'm willing to accept that five percent."  I knew it was the right thing to do...not so much because I'm so thrilled with Bro and his job history.  Or because I was feeling forgiving.  It was more self-preservation.  If I agreed, then I was being kind and generous and flexible in the court's eyes...and, to a very small extent, in Bro's (although he'll probably think that it was only what was right, what was due to him, which may make him a bigger pain to deal with in the future).  The judge issued an order that the 12/28/10 finding be refigured with a deviation at 55% rather than 50%, and that all other provisions of the order not in conflict would remain in effect.

Bro asked if that meant that his support would be completely recalculated.

The judge said no; if she sent the paystubs that he had submitted as evidence back to DRS and had them recalculate, since he is actually grossing more now than he was before, his payment would likely go up.

So he's getting a break of somewhere around $30 a month, if the judge figured right.

I'm still getting money and "losing" about $5ish a week.

He gets to be all happy that the judge is "so proud" of him for holding his job for six months, and walks out with the thought that the judge sided with him and agreed to lessen his support amount, even if it's not as much as he wanted.

Win-win, I suppose.

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