Mr. No-Pay: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Family law lawyers now have access to information that can transform a case from an up-hill battle to a slam-dunk, and it’s all thanks to the internet.

Case in point: I have a client whose ex-husband, a venture capitalist, stopped paying his child support about one year ago. Exhibiting the patience of a saint, my client bided her time, hopeful her ex would reinstate his payments and make up the arrears. Didn’t happen.

She then contacted my office and the legal process began. Her ex was obliged to provide the usual financial documents including income tax returns and corporate financial statements. His tax returns showed nominal income and gosh, darn, he said that all of his businesses were insolvent so he hadn’t bothered to have his accountant prepare financial statements.

With a little help from the internet, we learned he was selling his home with an asking price of just over $900,000.00. After the usual land title searches, we found out he had already purchased a new home in another community. He said he was downsizing. He paid about $850,000.00 for his new home. It was a lovely estate property, larger than his last home, in a less expensive rural area.

Next stop was his Linkedin page and from there we simply googled his name and the names of his corporations. Here’s what we found.

Earlier that year, he made an offer of $25 million to purchase a golf course/housing development project that was very close to his new home and in financial trouble. Press releases abounded announcing the pending acquisition and his superior business acumen.

Several years earlier he had been a finalist for an entrepreneur of the year award. He was on the Board of his local Chamber of Commerce and associated with at least two consulting firms touting his business expertise. His allegations of insolvency were not born out. His only business debt was related to a wine store he operated. He was paying $1000.00 per month to pay down the $40,000.00 debt, $1000.00 more than he was paying for his two kids!

With this information and his feeble explanations, he no longer looked as broke as he said he was. My client got her happy ending when a judge ordered Mr. No-Pay to pay up asap!

It’s not always this easy, but his “high profile” doomed any chance of a judge buying what he was selling. And don’t get me started on the gems you can find on Facebook!

You can run, but you can’t hide from the internet!

Judge Presides Over Child Support Hearing While Conducting an Affair with Litigant

DSC01152_2 (2)_2If you were the payor father in a child support hearing and you learned that the judge presiding over your case was having an affair with your child’s mother, how angry would you be? How about if you read an email from the judge to your ex, agreeing with her suggestion that you be sent to jail because you’re in arrears of child support?

“I figure if he hasn’t come current by his court date, he gets jail to pay. If he says he can’t bring me the $$, I’ll put him on a tether (electric monitoring) til he brings the receipt…or do “double time”.

You might think this kind of corruption comes from a judge in Russia or Zimbabwe, but you’d be wrong. Judge Wade McCree was, until recently, a judge in Wayne County Michigan, home to two million people, best known for Motown and Motor City, and of late, the 18 billion dollar debt and subsequent bankruptcy of the City of Detroit.

Judge McCree’s judicial career ended ignominiously this Spring when Michigan’s Supreme Court suspended him for six years, after finding his conduct affected not only the litigants involved, but harmed the integrity of the judicial system as a whole.

Initially Judge McCree pulled a “Weiner” by texting a partially nude photo of himself to a female deputy sheriff, and was under investigation by the Judicial Tenure Commission. Rather than minding his “p’s and q’s” while under scrutiny for that indiscretion, he began an affair with Geniene LaShay Mott, who was the complaining party in People v. King, a court proceeding involving the enforcement and collection of arrears of child support against Robert King, who was the father of one of Ms. Mott’s children. He was in arrears of support in the amount of $15,000.

Judge McCree’s offences included:

1. Conducting an affair with Ms. Mott while he was presiding over her child support hearing;
2. Engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Mott in his judicial chambers;
3. Allowing Ms. Mott to access the court house through a rear, private door and utilize the judicial parking lot;
4. Surreptitiously arranging for Ms. Mott’s cell phone to be delivered to her in court by a sheriff so she could call him during the hearing;
5. Texting Ms. Mott from the bench while presiding over other cases;
6. Accepting Ms. Mott’s suggestions as to how he should deal with her child’s father;
7. Giving money to Ms. Mott, as much as $6,000;
8. Lying to the Judicial Commission concerning the date that he ended his affair with Ms. Mott;

But there was even more. Judge McCree presided over People v. Tillman, reducing Mr. Tillman’s bond in another child support case. Tillman was a relative of Ms. Mott’s, a fact known to McCree. And when his affair with Ms. Mott cooled down he lodged a complaint with Wayne County’s Prosecuting Attorney, alleging that Ms. Mott was stalking him and extorting him by demanding $10,000 in exchange for terminating her pregnancy and not revealing the affair and pregnancy to Judge McCree’s wife. In fact, the alleged crimes never occurred.

While Judge McCree’s attorney argued “no harm, no foul”, the judicial panel, comprised of seven judges, disagreed, saying the judge was well aware that his conduct was egregiously inappropriate as evidenced by an email he sent to Ms. Mott:

“Second, you are the complaining witness on a case that is before me. Naturally if it got out that we were seeing each other before your baby daddy’s case closed, everybody would be in deep shit”.

As for the aggrieved Mr. King, he filed a lawsuit against Judge McCree alleging constitutional violations, including the right to equal protection under the law and the right to be treated fairly in legal processes. District Court Judge Avern Cohn ruled against Mr. King finding that Judge McCree’s decisions in King’s case were “judicial acts” covered by “judicial immunity”, a protection that applies even if a judge’s actions are negligent, incompetent, or malicious.

Unfortunately for Mr. King, this week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals endorsed Judge Cohn’s decision while declaring Judge McCree’s behavior “reprehensible”:

“Casual readers of this opinion…may erroneously conclude that…we are somehow endorsing Judge McCree’s conduct or going out of our way to protect one of our own…We do nothing of the sort.”

The Appeals Court also noted that “the best justice possible” was achieved by the Michigan Supreme Court when they suspended Judge McCree for six years.

Is this the end of Wade McCree’s judicial career? Only the people of Detroit can decide that, since Michigan State judges are elected, not appointed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Father Pays His Child Support, But Still Jailed for Six Months

DSC00280Texas father Clifford Hall has a great relationship with his 11-year-old son. He pays child support and sees his son regularly. So what’s the problem?

In November 2013 Mr. Hall was in court where his ex-wife’s lawyer confirmed there were no arrears of child support. Fast forward to January 2014, when he reappeared in court and was advised that due to an administrative error his direct deposits of child support to his ex-wife’s bank account had resulted in an underpayment of support. His ex also complained that he was not in adherence with their parenting agreement, as he was seeing his son more often than the agreement permitted.

He immediately paid the $3000.00 owing and expected to walk out of court with everything squared away. Not so fast…

Houston Judge Lisa Millard had something else to say “I sentence you to Harris County Jail for 180 days”. Gulp… That’s six months!

I have to wonder whether it gets dumber than this. A good father who pays his support and sees his child, who, but for an unintentional underpayment, will no longer be in a position to pay support, and can only see his son in a prison visiting room, while the State of Texas expends tens of thousands of dollars to keep him locked up.

Fortunately, there is now talk of a state judicial investigation and Change.org have started a petition directed at Texas governor, Rick Perry, calling for the release of Mr. Hall.

This judge needs her head examined!

PS Change.org is the online petition company that launched the internet petition against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, obtaining 2.2 million signatures

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

BarristerSo, you’re just a regular guy doing your thing and you happen to come across a Craigslist ad where a lesbian couple want to have a baby and need a sperm donor. Because you’re such a good guy, you figure, what the heck, why not help them out?

They offer to pay you $50.00 but you say “hey, I’m not doing this for the money, keep your $50.00”. Of course, you sign an agreement waiving all your paternal rights so you can’t be on the hook down the road. Your good deed results in a bouncing baby girl.

Fast forward to today, the little girl is three-years old, and the couple have split up. An application is made for health insurance for the child and the Kansas Department for Child and Families won’t approve the application until the name of the sperm donor is provided.

Now our good guy is faced with a lawsuit brought by the government agency for child support of $6000.00 to cover past payments and a claim for ongoing support.

How can that be, you say? Doesn’t the agreement he signed protect him? Not according to the Kansas authorities. Kansas does not recognize same-sex couples as parents unless conception is through a licensed physician or clinic. They say they are obliged by the law to pursue the father for support payments.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Dennis Rodman: Deadbeat Dad or Victim of Family Court?

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Rodman has always been a “bad boy”, he of the pink hair, the garish tattoos and the multiple rings. Yes, he has five NBA championship rings, but I’m referring to his nose, ear, eyebrow and lip rings.

With his basketball career long over and his retirement from the wrestling circuit, his employment opportunities are limited to personal appearances and product endorsements. He has also picked up some pocket change in recent years from shows like The Mole, Celebrity Rehab and Celebrity Apprentice, and of late, coached a topless women’s basketball team for a New York strip club.

His multi-million dollar paycheques have gone the way of the dodo bird and he says he is broke. Unfortunately, it is alleged he owes Michelle Rodman, his third wife, from whom he has been separated since 2004, over $800,000 in child support for Dennis, ten years old, and Trinity, age twelve. At first blush you may see Rodman as a deadbeat dad, but hold on there. Things are not always as they first seem.

In Rodman’s case a California judge in 2010 made a child support order of $50,000 per month, apparently relying on his wife’s lawyer’s arguments about how much he earned. It appears that Rodman was not at the hearing. Rodman’s lawyers advised the Court they intended to challenge the child support order, but dropped the ball and missed the filing deadline. Hence, the $800,000 bill which at $50,000 a month is for about 15 months of child support.

In December 2011, the $50,000 order was decreased to a payment of $4500 per month. His lawyer says he is up to date with his current payments.

However, Ms. Rodman has already successfully sued the Worm for contempt of court in relation to the unpaid support and in May 2012 he was sentenced to three years probation and 104 hours of community service.

Later in May, Ms. Rodman alleged that her ex-husband showed up at her California home drunk and abusive. She obtained a temporary restraining order on May 30, 2012, barring him from contact with her or their children. Rodman’s lawyer maintains that anybody can show up in court and allege abuse to readily obtain a temporary restraining order.

As a result on June 22, 2012, the Court ordered that his access to the children would be supervised by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and that he would be permitted telephone access so long as he provided his children with pre-paid cell phones.

Has Rodman’s luck changed since then? Apparently not, as his latest lawyer told the Court this week that she misunderstood that the matter of the significant arrears of support was to be argued that day. She wasn’t ready to proceed. The Judge grudgingly adjourned the hearing to October 2012 amid Michelle Rodman’s protests that the children have no medical coverage and she has no car.

Reports of Rodman’s income vary according to the source. A lawyer acting for him said his annual income was $150,000 and that most of it went to pay back taxes. His agent has reportedly said that he earns between $500,000 to a million dollars a year.

But there’s more. It seems another ex-girlfriend from Florida recently claimed that he owed her $179,000 for the support of their child. After a warrant for his arrest was issued, he settled that case in April 2012 agreeing to pay $5000 immediately and ongoing monthly instalment payments to pay off his debt.

He is also liable for a default judgment obtained by a waitress in Las Vegas who sued him for sexual assault. Rodman allegedly slapped her on her buttocks as she walked by, and in the absence of any defence for Rodman, she was awarded the sum of $225,000.

I have a tip for her. Get behind the line-up of creditors and be prepared to wait a long time.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang