Odd Developments; Or, Talking To Lawyers, Part III

This is my third (and hopefully final) installment in my series of posts that dealing with interactions with attorneys. Not that I have any disrespect for attorneys; quite the contrary: they perform a very valuable and important service. However, I think my life would probably be immeasurably better if I had no need for them right now.

As I wrote about before, my wife’s original dissolution petition contained some anomalies, not least of which being that there were two pages that somehow went missing. My response documented this fact, and took issue with other things (mainly omissions or misrepresentations of fact). I was told at that time that it could have just been an “honest mistake,” and that my wife could just file an amended petition.

Well, that’s exactly what she did, with a twist — or two. I went online to check that the forms I’d filed (just procedural stuff) had been processed by the court, and discovered that an amended petition had been submitted. This was a surprise. So, I went down to the courthouse tomorrow to pull the record and get a copy of the amended pleadings. Apparently in response to my response, she filed this new petition, and changed a bunch of information. This was very, very fishy.

So, I booked a session with an attorney tonight, just a quick, pro-bono consult. The lawyer I spoke with mainly litigates corporate law cases, but used to do a lot of family law cases; like other lawyers at this legal “clinic,” he volunteers his time. (Since I do a lot of volunteer work myself, I respect this tremendously.) He looked over my sheaf of documents, and examined my wife’s pleadings. His first reaction was, “oh, man, this is a mess.” He quickly pointed out that, aside from the fact that there was considerable disarray and other problems with the documents my wife had drawn up — including the new ones — she had also violated court rules. You see, she cannot just file an amended petition. Her original had already been served and responded to, and so now a whole new set of procedural rules applies, and with good reason. You can’t exactly sue someone, and once the case is entered into the records, just change the case at will. There are procedures to be followed.

The procedure she failed to follow was simple. First, she was supposed to draft an amended petition and leave it unsigned. Then, she was supposed to either contact me to get written permission to file it (I would have declined, of course), or to have motioned the court to submit the amended petition. That unsigned draft would have to have been submitted for a judge to review, approved, and then submitted to the clerk. Then, I would have to be served, and then given 10 days to respond. None of that happened. This means that this amended petition is bogus and will be struck from the record.

The attorney began to strategize, saying, “so, what could we do here…” He said that I could motion the court to strike this new petition, “but that would just annoy her.” Heh, heh… “Or, you could just ignore it, and do nothing.” That’s what I’m doing. Ignoring it, and doing nothing. She asked for certain types of relief that he felt were almost certain to be rejected by any judge, even if procedure had been filed. He said he doubted she could “get it together” enough to actually file for the kinds of relief she was requesting, and even if she did, she probably would not be successful. Note that these were new things she was trying to get into her pleadings. That just won’t fly.

I left with a lighter conscience. I’ll sleep well tonight.