I have, what I would consider, a very drama-free life. I don't invite drama through my front door. I am a good person, I treat others with respect, and I live an honest life. My husband is the same way. He works extremely hard for our family, and sacrifices 9 months a year of memories and proximity so that we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and a couple of luxuries here and there.
Some of you may know about my 3 older children and the custody situation with them. I won't go back through all the details, but a year ago, when my unemployment ran out, I decided to file a modification for my child support. I, personally, have not had any income from employment coming in since April 2011. Have I tried to get a job? Absolutely. While I was on unemployment, I had to apply for a minimum of 5 jobs EACH WEEK! This means that I applied for a MINIMUM of 390 jobs over the course of 18 months. There were no duplicate applications. I applied for a wide variety of jobs, ranging from secretary positions to IT positions (that I was qualified for). I got called in for 2 interviews during that time. This gives me an interview rate of around 1/2 percent. Not exactly promising! Of those two interviews, neither resulted in a job offer. My ability to obtain employment becomes less and less with each week and each month that I continue to remain unemployed. The larger the gap in my "employment" history, the less likely an employer will hire me. Pair that with my challenging situation of being a "single" wife, and being the sole care provider for my 3 year old son, whilst 33 weeks pregnant with our daughter, and I'm basically causing potential employers to run the opposite direction when they see me! I do love staying home with my son, and teaching him, playing with him, and caring for him. I look forward to doing the same with our daughter when she is born.
Sorry for getting off track a little, but I wanted to make it clear that I'm not a deadbeat trying to get away with not paying child support for my three older children that don't live with me during the school year. I'm simply trying to do what is FAIR given the circumstances.
Ok, so I filed this motion a little over a year ago and mailed it in to the MD Child Support Enforcement section at DHR. When I called to check in on it (they typically have 30 days to respond to written communications), I was told that the paperwork had not been received. (I blame myself for not sending the initial packet via certified mail so I could track it). We moved from our home in Florida up to Pennsylvania a year ago, so by the time I got word that this had happened, all of my files were packed up and in storage. Now I had to wait until I could get back to FL to get my paperwork out of storage in order to re-file. I did re-file in June 2013, and this time I sent the documents via certified mail. Finally, at the end of August, the other party was served. A hearing date was set (according to the online system) on October 1st for November 1st 2013. Unfortunately, I didn't receive a notice of the hearing until 10/19/13. This left me 12 days to prepare for a hearing that would be located 900+ miles away. Did I mention that I'm 33 weeks pregnant? I can't currently travel due to the pregnancy. In fact, my husband did the traveling for me back in August when my older children needed to be taken back to MD. I have also arranged for them to travel without me for their Thanksgiving and Christmas visits as well, because I cannot travel during that time. So, you get the point, right? I can't travel.
I started calling the courts the Monday morning after I received the notice. The last time we had a modification hearing, my side of the case was represented by an attorney that was hired by the child support division of the State's Attorney's office. I sent him all the documents that were necessary for the hearing, and I didn't have to make the trek to Maryland to appear for the hearing. All was resolved. This time, I made the mistake of assuming the same would be true, so my first attempts were to contact him directly. I left a message for him on 10/21, 10/24 and again on Monday, 10/28. When I called on 10/28, the secretary I spoke with that time told me he was "away" and wouldn't return until Thursday or Friday (my hearing being on Friday). I was a little concerned about cutting it so close, but I had already faxed in my last 3 years tax returns like the secretary the previous week had suggested I do. I had a little bit of optimism left that it would work out and be okay. I received a phone call from the secretary I spoke to on 10/28 yesterday afternoon. She informed me that since it was going to be in front of a judge, I needed to find out if the attorney I was trying to reach would even have been assigned my case. Panic mode set in. It had never occurred to me that he wouldn't be assigned to work on this case. So, I started calling every office in the courthouse that might possibly have some knowledge of this case. I contacted the assignment office. I contacted the civil office of circuit court. I contacted the administrative judge's secretary. I contacted the state's attorney's office again. I contacted the child support section of the circuit court. I finally decided to try the Master for Domestic Relations office, even though they weren't supposed to be hearing the case. It turns out they were the ones who were able to provide me with the most information.
After speaking with them, I learned a few things. First, I learned that the word "retired" doesn't necessarily mean that a person is no longer working in the same capacity they had prior to retirement. Puzzled? Let me break it down for you. The judge who granted custody of my older three children to their birth father 5 years ago when I announced that I wanted to relocate to live with my current husband in Florida, SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED THIS CASE BE HEARD IN HIS COURTROOM. That alone is kind of suspect, in my opinion, but it was his case back then, so ok. However, said judge RETIRED OVER 30 DAYS AGO! Like, BEFORE this case was set in for a hearing! When I asked how this could happen, I was told that he can hear cases on an "as-needed" basis because they haven't replaced him yet. I guess it's somewhat possible that by mere luck of draw he could have been assigned my case, but I have a confirmed report stating that his office specifically requested this case be presented before his court. Something stinks, and it's not my 3 year old's diaper, if you know what I'm saying.
The woman I talked to in the master's office was very helpful, and told me I needed to fax in a letter requesting a continuance as soon as possible stating that I needed to request the assistance of the attorney who helps non-custodial parents with these cases, and cite any other reasons I may have. I typed the letter up, citing that, the fact I was 33 weeks pregnant and unable to travel, and citing the short notice for the hearing, hardship of obtaining travel arrangements, etc. and faxed it to them within 15 minutes of our conversation. I called them back to let them know that I had sent the fax.
I decided to call this afternoon to find out if the letter had been received and/or presented for a decision. I spoke to the administrative judge's secretary, and she informed me that she did receive it, and she presented it to the judge. She told me that his ruling was "no action". When I asked her what that meant, she said that basically, if I didn't show up, then he would dismiss the case. She said that wouldn't prevent me from filing again in the future. I about lost it. It took FOREVER to get this heard in the first place, then they set it in with 30 days notice, but I only get 12 days by the time the letter gets to me, and I have not one crappy reason, but THREE very valid reasons, one of which is a medical reason, and he basically DENIES it?!! What the fuck. (Pardon my french, but abbreviations just do NOT do justice to the royal fucked up-edness of this situation). She told me I could get my doctor to fax in a note stating that I'm unable to travel, and that might have a better shot. Let's say I did see an OB/GYN. (I don't. I see a midwife.) So, if I saw an OB/GYN, I could call their office about 12:45 pm on a Thursday, and explain the situation to a receptionist, who would then leave a message for the doctor. If he was still in the office, and today isn't his "surgery" day, then he may see it sometime prior to the close of business. If he does, my file would need to be pulled and reviewed by said doctor. At that point, he would then need to relay to another office employee to draft such a letter, and then fax it in to the courts. I highly doubt it would be realistic to expect that all of this could be accomplished prior to the hearing time of 9:30 am tomorrow morning. My situation is a little different, so I called my midwife. I explained the situation to her. She was more than happy to draft a letter with the pertinent information and fax it in for me at some point this afternoon. I'm not sure if it's been done yet, but I did call back and leave a message that they should be expecting a fax this afternoon.
I basically have NO FAITH in the civil court system. Criminals have more rights than anyone. I used to work the criminal section of the state's attorney's office, and saw time and time again where somebody accused of a crime would request continuance after continuance after continuance, and they would all be granted, with basically no questions asked. Excuses from "I can't get a ride to the courthouse" to "I've got a hangnail" would be grounds for a continuance. It's total bullshit, and this royally pisses me off to no end.
So, to help myself "goosfraba", I've got to get it all on "paper". This is my therapy. I can't vent to my husband, because he's working thousands of miles away overseas in order to support our family and pay my child support so that the state of Maryland doesn't a) take away my driver's license, b) place a restriction on my passport, c) seize our assets/tax refunds, d) place a tax lien on our property, e) incarcerate me. Isn't he a great husband?
By continuing to pay the amount ordered for child support, I'm probably screwing my chances of having the amount modified. I'm showing historical precedence that we are "able to pay". However, if I stop paying the ordered amount, I risk actions A-E stated above. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I had balls, they'd have me by them.
So, there you have it. When I was the parent receiving the child support in Maryland, I was not without complaints. The system is broken, the family court system needs a complete reorganization, and Judge "Fuck You Too" needs to be removed from the bench. Period.