It Really Is A Good Day Your Honor

“You tell her that you will call your attorney for his advice because your mother will be very unhappy to hear this. She tells you that she has prayed to God for guidance because she was really so happy here, and that, no matter what, she did not want to return to Washington State.”

Your daughter, who is visiting you for the summer from Washington State where she lives with her mother and new stepfather, wants to have a quiet talk with you.  She had moved with them after the divorce two years ago.  At that time you had mounted a custody battle for your son because he was having trouble adjusting to his new stepfather and did not want to live with them in Washington State.  The court had appointed a counsel for your son who was eleven years at the time as well as an evaluator and a therapist.  All of these were appointed over your objection because in the past when you had first sought custody of both children the judge had appointed these three to your case and they had all recommended custody for your ex-wife.  He spoke highly of the qualifications of each of them and appointed them to the case even though your attorney had requested their resumes and full disclosure of all their relationships, financial and otherwise, with opposing counsel.  In the end, they had provided no information to your attorney and the judge had made it clear that he would not order them to provide this information even though you were entitled to it.  The judge knew them and had worked with them in the past and felt very comfortable with them.  Indeed, he had even delegated the authority to decide on your visitations with your children to the therapist despite the fact that this was illegal since only the judge could make those decisions.  After asking around your attorney told you that all three had worked with opposing counsel before and always found in favor of the mother.
At the custody hearing, all three had recommended that the children be given to your ex-wife and that she be allowed to take them to Washington State despite the fact that the distance alone made it very difficult to maintain your relationship with them.  However, your son and his new stepfather began having disagreements immediately after the move.  When he begged to return to Los Angeles to live with you, you filed an Order to Show Cause seeking a change in custody from your ex-wife to you.  When the Judge again appointed the same people as minor’s counsel, evaluator, and therapist over strenuous objection from you and your lawyer you knew you were going to lose again.  It simply did not matter that you argued that you had never abused your children in any way despite being a strict father who strongly believed in education.  The fact that you had spoken harshly against your son’s involvement with some friends you suspected of being either present or future gang members was used against you and caused you to be labeled a “mentally abusive person.”

At the second custody hearing they once again recommended against despite your son having come to blows with his stepfather.  After the first fight your son had climbed on the roof of the Washington home and threatened suicide.  These facts did not cause the slightest change in their recommendations.  Your son was ordered to Washington State with the recommendation that he see a therapist in Washington and if he still did not accept his new surroundings it may be necessary for him to go on medication.  Your son refused to accept his stepfather and was accused of vandalizing his car.  He was arrested and taken to juvenile detention less than six months after he was ordered to live with his mother.  Your ex-wife realized it would never workout with your son and his stepfather and wrote you asking to have your son returned to you in Los Angeles.  You agreed and he was released from Juvenile Detention and returned to you.  Since his return he had been very happy and was doing well in school.  When you had appeared before the judge to have the stipulated change of custody signed by him he had not even bothered to hide his annoyance at this change which had been agreed to by both parents.  You had always wanted both children with you and now you had one and praying for the return of your daughter also.  Your attorney had fought with the judge constantly over the sending of your son to live in an environment in which he was clearly miserable.  On the way out of the courthouse after the change of custody for your son your attorney had told you that eventually you would return to the court to change custody for your daughter also because she would not stay in Washington State.  Now she was here with you and the three of you had thoroughly enjoyed the summer together.  All three of you went to church every Sunday with your parents and the children were clearly happy to be in their original home and family circle again.
You take your daughter alone out for a ride and ask her what the problem was.  She was very quiet at first and then she told you that she was very happy to be home with you and her brother and loved going to church on Sundays with everyone like old times.  The bottom line was that she did not want to go back to Washington State after the summer.  She loved her mother but she wanted to be with you and her little brother again.  You tell her that you would love to have her back and could not be happier to hear her say she wanted to stay.

You tell her that you will call your attorney for his advice because your mother will be very unhappy to hear this.  She tells you that she has prayed to God for guidance because she was really so happy here, and that, no matter what, she did not want to return to Washington State.
You call your lawyer and he tells you that he is not surprised and genuinely happy to hear this development.  He advises you to have your daughter write to her mother in her own handwriting telling her that she wanted to stay with her brother because he needed her.  Above all, your lawyer wants you to stay out of it completely.  Let this just be between mother and daughter.  You tell your daughter what your attorney has advised and she writes the letter to her mother.  A few days later your daughter tells you that her mother received the letter and called her to tell her that she was very sad that she wanted to stay here and take care of her brother but she understood.  She asked your daughter to tell you to have your lawyer send her another Stipulation for change of custody and she would sign it and send it back.  Your attorney prepared the Stipulation and overnight it to your ex-wife who promptly signs and returns it to the lawyer.  Your attorney tells you that even though the Judge cannot stop your wife from giving you custody of your daughter as she had previously done with your son, he was a very vindictive old man and would at least want to hold up the process.  Rather than appearing ex parte to have the Stipulation signed he believed it was best to file a regular OSC and give notice and wait for the hearing day to come.  He files and gets a hearing date.  The day of the hearing arrives and you and your attorney are in the courtroom as soon as it opens.  Although your case is third on the list the Judge ignores it until every other matter is heard and the courtroom is almost empty.  When he calls your case he has a scowl upon his face and makes no attempt to hide his annoyance.  He tells you that you are to give the clerk your ex-wife’s phone number because he wants to hear from her before he made any decision.  Since it was already almost 12 noon when the court would be closed for lunch this meant you would have to return for the afternoon session beginning at one thirty.
You and your attorney return to court and Judge has his clerk call your ex-wife and put her on the speaker.  When she answers he began asking her if it was really her decision to allow a change of custody for your daughter.  She answers with a firm “yes” and tells the Judge that this was what your daughter wanted and she believed it was in the children’s’ best interest that they stay together.  The Judge accepts this but still continues with the scowl on his face.  He looks at you and says, “I am going to sign this although I do not believe you deserve having these children with you.”  He signs and hands the Stipulation to his clerk and looks at you and say “I see that smirk on your face.  Good day gentlemen.”  You look at him, grin broadly, and reply, “It really is a good day, your Honor.”

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