Question: My Dad is in a nearly powerless situation: He's 56, soon to be x-wife is 42, and they have a sperm-donated 5yr old. The kid's only related to the mom, but my Dad raised her about 90+% more than she did (because he's a stay at home dad, and she works full time as a lawyer). My Dad's main concern is about the kid. He says she's a bad mom, and she doesn't want him to have any visitation rights. They had a prenup that states she'll get the house. He has no money, and his state doesn't provide free lawyers for divorces. He's communicated some with a lawyer who seems pretty good and gave some basic advice; but, this lawyer is charging $3,000 just to retain his services and he told my dad that it looks like this will be a very ugly and long divorce, and will probably wind up costing "tens of thousands of dollars". My soon to be exstepmom isn't the only lawyer, her best friend will soon be a judge, and her dad is a fairly wealthy and influential lawyer and dean and he has supposedly bought her "the best and most ruthless divorce lawyer money can buy". Furthermore, her family may have mob connections. I told my dad to just walk away and start a new chapter in his life, and forget about the 5-year old he isn't even related too. But, his concerns and feelings are no more real than are mine. He's not dumb. He's just too emotional. He's got his masters in journalism, and knows a good bit about legal stuff, and he says he knows better than to try to represent himself in court because that's something you should never do.
Response 1: If there are no properties at issue and he is not seeking alimony, he may be better off just walking away as you suggested. It may be tough on him however letting go of a kid who in all intents and purposes is his child. If he is willing to let go of the child, then he can walk away, but this may be easier said than done.
What if he just left the state with no plans of returning--and, of course, didn't go to the divorce hearing/trial? Would he be held in contempt of court with consequences forever looming in his future were he to return to the said state?
Response 2: No, he would not be held in Contempt of Court because he is not obligated to show up for the hearing. Also, he cannot be held in Contempt of Court when he has not violated any Court Order. However, if he does not show up, his wife would get everything that she is asking for including not allowing him to have visitation rights. Would he be legally pursued across state lines for not showing up?
Response 3: No.
Would he be potentially prevented-from/blacklisted-in travelling (i.e. trains, busses, airports)?
Response 4: No.
Would he only face legal punishment their current state?
Response 5: No. He has not broken any laws.
Or, would he simply and only loose all hope of getting anything his way in the proceedings? In my mind, if someone decides not to show up to court, then they simply should loose, no different than a forfeited game.
Response 6: Yes, that is correct. That is absolutely what is going to happen if he does not show up for the divorce hearing. The wife would get everything that she is asking for.
If bailing out on the divorce hearing/trial would make things much worse for him, then, maybe representing himself would be a better option. What do you think? But with zero preparation and only basic understanding of the process, would it be possible? Obviously, they'd rip him a new one, it would be humiliating, and he would most likely flat out loose. But, it would be better than facing charges (if that's the case for leaving the state and not planning to return). Or, would his lack of law-etiquette likely disqualify him at somepoint? For instance, if he didn't understand something the judge or the opponent lawyer said, or were he to respond in an incorrect way, or within deeply lawsoaked paperwork, might he be disqualified from being able to continue representing himself? And then what? What would you do? What do you think some of the best options are? Thank you for your time.
Response 7: He would not face any charges if he does not show up because there is no requirement that he show up for the hearing. He would not be breaking any law if he refuses to be a part of the divorce proceeding. The Court is still going to grant them divorce whether or not he shows up for the hearing. However, if he is really bonded with the child, it would not be fair to expect him to just walk away. He can represent himself in the hearing by simply telling the Court his relationship with the child and why he still wants to maintain the relationship after divorce and that the only thing that he is seeking in the divorce is reasonable visitation with his child. The court cannot disqualify him for representing himself even if he does not know what he is doing or what the Rules are. Courts generally accommodate self-represented litigants and would not expect them to know all Court Rules. He should just relax and tell the Court what he needs. That's all.
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