Tale No. 17 The law will get you to court...but sometimes the facts decide the case

A few years ago a woman came to your editor for help. She had left her husband and relocated to California from Georgia to start a new life; she intended to bring out her two young children when she was settled. After leaving Georgia, her husband filed for divorce, custody of the children, and child support. The client advised she had received notice of the custody hearing and claim for child support with less than 24 hours to travel from California to Georgia to appear – the court entered judgment by default. The client's ex-husband had followed her to California with the children and was seeking an increase in the monthly child support; the increase would have meant he was taking approximately 90% of his ex-wife’s salary!

Your editor consulted attorneys with more experience in family law and was advised to get a copy of the divorce decree from the Georgia court and appeal the order. There was neither the time nor money for that (the case was pro bono and the hearing set for the following week).

Your editor argued in response to the petition that the amount of the claim for child support was exorbitant. It came out at the hearing that the ex-husband, although “able bodied” (as the judge described him) and as ex-Army had received training in transferrable job skills, was not working – and expected his ex-wife to continue to support him through the “child support” payments. It also came out that the children had been taken by child services in California. The grounds for the claim for child support had been effectively removed!

The court not only declined to increase the child support award, but reversed the support award of the Georgia court – not sure the judge had jurisdiction to do that, but she did it anyway!