“But it’s Mine!” screamed the bird, when she heard the egg crack.
(the work was all done. Now she wanted it back.)
“It’s my egg!” she sputtered. “You stole it from me!
Get off of my nest and get out of my tree!”
Dear Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity Diary,
So what happened in court? I hope I am not boring you with my, um, life, but I have to get this all down so I don’t forget it. Yesterday I was the petitioner, so I got the opportunity via paperwork to make the initial arguments, he replied, and then we got one more chance to rebut statements via more arguments and exhibits. The action was a Motion to Modify the Parenting Plan.
As I mentioned in a previous post, what was at stake was:
1. Would we be allowed to modify the parenting plan? The problem with the parenting plan was that it was 50/50 time, which does not work out when a kid has over an hour commute to her father’s house. This is a tricky one and I’ll discuss it in more detail.
2. Would we be allowed to roll back to the “temporary” plan that we had followed since he moved in 2008? Last month the temporary judge had ruled that we would be moving back in time to 2005, meaning she would be commuting 3 hours on school days and one time on Sunday.
3. Could a guardian ad litem be appointed to examine the child’s life, speak to her, her family, look at her home, and so forth, in order to speak for her in court should the case go to trial?
His argument was that we should keep the 2005 parenting plan.
The trial date is set for October 2012. I guess this problem is solved since the world is going to end next year anyway! Just kidding, this situation is still going to keep stinking up a small corner of my life.
Short answer: the commissioner ruled in our favor. She said a LOT of things, some of which I will describe. First, she was about a half hour late returning. Court was supposed to start at 1:30 p.m.–we were the only case to be heard (the other two were no-shows) and we sat adjacent to each other, waiting, waiting. I felt like we were twisting, dangling over a cliff.
I snuck looks at SeaFed and it looked like he was working on his laptop and chatting with his lawyer occasionally. He was wearing the same terrible suit coat and tan pants and a blue tie. When he first came to the hall and walked by us in he was wearing a flat cap and snapping his gum. I had that feeling like I wanted to kick him under a table or something, which I have actually done before.
Seattle courts don’t look anything like the pristine courtrooms of stage and screen. There are boxes of printer paper laying around, the clerks have mini-fans and cacti, and there were coats piled up on what I think is a witness stand.
Finally, we were called up. My lawyer was allowed to make arguments for more than the allotted five minutes, since the courtroom was empty, and his lawyer did the same. His lawyer led with a paraphrase from Sherlock Holmes, saying what was significant was that the dog didn’t bark. Either I am about to see some wind get inherited, or he has nothing, I thought to myself. His lawyer talked about the fact that the document we submitted about her crying in class was the first day of her commute, and nothing after that. I found this frustrating, because she had continued to talk to her counselor and some of her teachers, but indeed, there was no other written documentation about the fact that Franny was still upset throughout the month. Thus, “the dog didn’t bark.” THE DOG WAS BARKING, OK?
The commissioner gave her opinion then. “Does this meet the requirements for modification?” she asked. “I will go through them, all four points, and speak to them.” I could have died then. If I lost, I would have to hear her opinion on all the points. She had already spoken at length by then, and I felt like I was being roasted over a spit on some mezzanine of Hell listening to her opening remarks. The RCW is lengthy on this, but she hit four points.
1. Was what was happening considered to be permanent by the parents and child? Was the child integrated into my household? She spoke at length to this, but my summary is, yes. The commissioner said that she felt three years was long enough in a child’s life to constitute a permanent change. Not to be outdone by SeaFed’s lawyer quoting Sherlock, she paraphrased Shakespeare and commented that you can call our living situation a rose all day, but it was actually a daffodil.
She asked the opposing attorney if he could say that Franny could not be integrated into our home because she already WAS integrated into our home (which was his argument), due to the fact that we started at 50/50, would he take it to the extreme and claim that a child who was under a 50/50 plan but lived with one parent for 363 days a year and spent the other two with the other parent–would he not say that child was logically more a part of the majority household just because the plan in place said the parents were 50/50? She rejected the notion that a wibbly-wobbly 50-50 custody plan could not be changed just because the plan was supposed to be equal. Shit, bitches, this is when I am so happy to have a lawyer. Also, according to their side, I was trying to pull a “fast one” on him by sneakily taking care of our kid after he moved.
2. Was there a substantial deviation in the parenting plan? Yes. It was no longer 50/50. Franny’s life takes place in Seattle. Her father lives in another city. The commissioner talked about the importance of friends and social activities for a teenlet and how it’s important to respect that.
3. Was it by agreement, was there consent given to change the parenting plan? Yes.
By this point we had racked up three and I tell you I was shitting myself. You don’t want to stand there stupidly in your doofy clown clothes looking crazy, so I settled for wringing my hands instead of crawling under the table or wetting myself. I did start crying when I realized we were winning because I was so relieved.
The commissioner decided that because SeaFed had signed paperwork in our 2007 mediation that looked VERY like the schedule we were following from 2008 onward, and for the simple fact that he had allowed the schedule to continue, that his consent was given.
4. Would keeping the parenting plan in its current state harm the child? YES. YES. YES. That’s about all I can say about that.
So she rolled it back to the “temporary” parenting plan, which we have been doing for the past 3+ years. She ordered that we mediate in the next 60 days. I liked what she said about how many times we have found a way to agree on arrangements in the past, which is absolutely true. We also were ordered to appoint a guardian ad litem in the hallway in case mediation failed.
SeaFed bargain-basemented on the GAL, picking people solely on price. His attorney did not really know many of the GALs, which made sense to me, since my lawyer cannot remember opposing him in family court. (My lawyer mentioned that she trained to be a GAL but then was advised that she should park at peoples’ houses and other places with her car facing out for a quick getaway and then realized it was not a life for her.) This sounds right for him, really. Penny wise, pound foolish. I thought it was funny in a way, because I know he just bought himself and his stay-at-home wife and retired mother-in-law new iPhones. IN A WAY.
I picked Franny up after and broke the news to her.
She was SO HAPPY. We went out to our favorite teriyaki place and my appetite has shrunk to about half of my normal bento-hoovering abilities, but that will change soon enough. She is looking forward to VISITING his house this weekend and coming back home on Monday.
So, mediation again. I am a bit nervous that if he runs out of money he will hit up his Daddy Warbucks for it. As always, stay tuned, and thanks for reading and telling me I am not crazy. Court is hard. Court lines (don’t do it). On the other hand, if $LASTNAME vs $LASTNAME is someday precedent for getting someone out of a pickle when they are 50/50 and in an integration dispute, I would be happy, though I will never know.