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LawTalk
LawTalk, Attorney and Counselor at Law
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 37414
Experience:  30 years legal experience. I remain current in Family Law through regular continuing education.
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I hope you can guide me in the right direction next step...

Customer Question

Hi, I hope you can guide me in the right direction for my next step...
Let me start by saying I have a paralegal friend who is drafting and researching any pleadings I file, in an attempt to save money with my new counsel. So, it may sound like I know what I am doing, but it is not me, specifically, who does.
That being said, two motions post-judgment Motions were filed after the Final Judgment was entered. One was a Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs against my ex-husband. The other Motion was for determination of the reasonableness and amount owed to my former attorney. A hearing was held on these issues, however my counsel of record was tied up in another Court over 45 minutes away. My attorney had a "stand in" attorney present at the hearing. The stand in did not know the case/facts the way my actual counsel did, and did not know how to address the issues. My ex- husband's attorney and my former attorney basically RAN OVER the stand in. The Court denied my Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs against my ex-husband AND my Motion to Determine Reasonableness of Fees and Costs of my former counsel. The Order only stated "denied - no evidence presented."
I filed a Motion for Reconsideration and Re-Hearing and indicated that MY attorney could not be present, that the "stand-in" attorney was not as well-versed in the issues as my regular counsel, did not have documentation as he was assuming that my attorney would be able to make it for the hearing (just late), and indicated that my ex's attorney and my former attorney mis-represented information during the court proceedings. Of course my ex-husband's attorney objected to the Motion for Re-Hearing and Re-Consideration and stated that the "stand-in" attorney never represented to the Court that he was waiting on my counsel of record.
"A" Judge - not the actual Judge on the case - denied my Motion for Re-Hearing and Re-Consideration - without hearing.
It is imperative that I be able to address both of these issues since my attorney fees and costs total approximately $170,000.00 - YES REALLY - and unless I am able to have my ex pay for some of these expenses, I will be in worse shape than I already am in. My ex makes 3x as much money as I do and I am in debt over my ears....
Could you tell me - what is my next step?? An appeal of the issues in appellate court would be too costly for an "if" result.
Please help.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good afternoon,

I'm Doug, and I'm very sorry to hear of your situation. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

This seems like a very crucial matter for you, and your questions and issues suggest that an in-depth conversation might best suit your needs. If you are interested, for a nominal charge I can offer you a phone conference as opposed to continuing in this question and answer thread. I will make that offer to you after I get this posted to your question thread. All you need do is accept the offer if you would like me to call. Let me know if you don't want a call and I can continue here with an answer.

In order to give you a clear and concise answer, I will need some additional information about the circumstances, please.

1. Could you explain more about your enormous debt?

2. What is your annual income at the present time?

Thanks in advance,

Doug

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
My ex is very controlling and manipulative. He did everything in his power to delay the proceedings in an attempt to ruin me financially. He requested a Guardian Ad Litem and got it. He manipulated her. He requested a transfer of custody to him and motioned the Court to allow him to move almost 50 miles away from the marital home. That was denied - so he tried again - denied - and again - denied. He let our house go into foreclosure, didn't pay the HOA fees or taxes. So when the house sold, all of those fees came out first. Trial was supposed to be 4 days, but it dragged into almost 8 days, but that was spread out over 3-4 months due to the Judge's calendar. In the meantime, he continued to file every pleading he could to aggravate and delay. The divorce went on for 3 years. He even tried to recuse the Judge because she wasn't giving him everything he wanted. Recusal was DENIED. Thank God, the Judge saw through all of his antics and the Final Judgment was mostly in my favor. So, he filed an appeal. Dropped the appeal on the very last day for the deadline of the Brief to be filed. Now, I have over $170,000.00 in attorney fees and costs, basically because my attorney had to respond to all of his crap. The Judge reserved ruling on Attorney Fees and Costs in the Final Judgment. Hence, my Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs against him - which has now been denied due to the reasons previously stated. Biggest problem now is the presiding Judge is not the same Judge that heard the divorce - due to rotation of judges at the beginning of the year. So, now, he is getting away with things, because the Judge hasn't gotten a dose of his manipulations yet.Now, only 5 months after the Final Judgment - he has filed a Petition for Modification - citing the same thing as he did several times throughout the divorce. My attorney has filed a Motion to Dismiss, but that won't be heard until December 8th.As to my current annual income - I make appx. $38,000.00/year. He makes over $100,000.00/year AND lives with his girlfriend (who he cheated on me with) and she makes over $100,000.00/year as well.So, you see, he can steam roll me when it comes to fighting - which is why I have a paralegal friend of mine helping to draft pleadings to keep my costs down.I hope this answers your questions.
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

Thanks for the additional information.

While it does answer my questions it really does not do much to help in your cause. I'm sorry.

With the denial of your Motion for Reconsideration/Rehearing, and the apparent lack of evidence alleged to have been put forward by your replacement lawyer (and why your real attorney would miss such a critical hearing is absolutely beyond me) you have no other avenue to attack the denial of attorney's fees and costs other than an appeal. That is what you are left with. Quite frankly, because payment of attorney fees is not mandatory but rather discretionary with the judge----your chances on appeal would likely be very poor.

The last thing you wrote in your question was "Please help". I don't believe that help for this issue is available through the family law court at this point---and as you have ruled out an appeal---and I think rightly so---then the only other avenue you have to deal with these huge debts is to seriously consider filing for Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy.

Your income would suggest that you will be able to pay pennies on the dollar for your existing debts, including credit cards, other loans and most importantly your unpaid legal fees. After the bankruptcy what was not paid through bankruptcy would be discharged and you would get a fresh, financial start. I would strongly urge you to sit down with a local bankruptcy attorney and discuss your options for getting out from under this crippling debt that you are facing.

You may reply back to me using the Reply link and I will be happy to continue to assist you until I am able to address your concerns, to your satisfaction.

Kindly, remember to rate my service to you. That is how I am credited for assisting you.

I wish you and yours the best in 2015,

Doug

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the response.Just to be clear, my counsel of record had every intention of coming to the hearing and did show up. It was a special set for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the case she had in another Court in another county was delayed, thus causing her to be delayed. She arrived at this hearing minutes after the Judge made the ruling but was unable to be heard. The Motion for Reconsideration advised the Court of her unintentional delay due to being in another hearing in another county. There was no way for her to anticipate that a 1:00 p.m. hearing wouldn't be heard until just after 2:00 p.m. My hearing was scheduled for 3:00. She attempted to contact the Judge's JA to inform her that she was running late, but they did not get the message until it was already too late.I didn't want you to think my counsel of record was negligent as that certainly is not the case. She is going to keep trying any avenue she can to hopefully have this matter re-heard. I am just a person who researches every avenue possible (on my time) and add my 2cents. 3-4 brains working on things sometimes find a loop hole. That was what I was hoping would happen with your assistance.Guess not.Thanks anyway!
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good afternoon,

Having read your further statement of the facts, I understand why your attorney missed the hearing---but in all honesty, that wasn't the best planning on her part. The fact that she provided a stand in suggests that she knew the risk she was taking---even if it was shortly before your 3:00 PM hearing--- and that she might not make it. It was truly unfortunate.

You wrote: There was no way for her to anticipate that a 1:00 p.m. hearing wouldn't be heard until just after 2:00 p.m. I understand your desire to stick up for your attorney, but anyone who has been doing this for a while understands that it is not all that unusual for a 1 PM hearing to be delayed. While she appears to have done what she could to remedy the situation, the fact is that something bad happened. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that your attorney was negligent, but rather, in retrospect, that she wasn't as prepared as she could have been. What the stand-in could have done was to ask for a short continuance---to trail the motion for an hour or so, or even to reschedule the hearing----but is appears that the stand-in decided to wing it.

It is great that you are participating so actively in the post-judgment process, and that gives you a unique window on the process that few clients ever see. And you are right---more than one mind---legal or otherwise--- considering a situation is generally a benefit.

I wish that I had an answer for you that would solve your present problem---but the appeal is the appropriate route to challenge the denial of the request for reconsideration/rehearing---and as far as your finances are concerned, the possibility of bankruptcy may be the single best route for you to consider in the near future.

Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated.

Please understand that in order for me to be compensated for having helped you, I need for you to positively rate my service to you by clicking on the rating stars---three stars or more. It is that easy.

Thanks in advance.

I wish you the best,

Doug