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DivorcedMoms Top 10 Articles From 2019

DivorcedMoms Top 10 Divorce Articles From 2019

DivorcedMoms Top 10 Articles From 2019

 

We’ve rounded up DivorcedMoms top 10 divorce articles from the year, with expert advice on narcissism, psychological abuse, divorce and teens, the family court system and more.

What kind of divorce resources are you interested in? If we’ve not covered it here, leave a comment and let us know.

DivorcedMoms Top 10 Divorce Articles From 2019

1. What can you expect from a narcissist during a relationship?

A lot of heartache! In other words, if it ‘s respect, consideration for your feelings and needs you desire, it’s best to keep your expectations low.

“While you may not be physically hit or physically abused in a relationship with a narcissist, your heart will be broken 10,000 times. Even if you think you are a “strong” person and can handle it; your strength is not really strength, but rather, denial.

“The following list is not exhaustive, but it is informative. If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist you’ll recognize them all. If you’re presently in a relationship with a narcissist, buckle up because you’ll eventually experience them all.”

Read the full article here and dive deeper into our resources on narcissism and personality disorders here.

2. Teens often refuse to visit a father during visitation, what should you do?

There are many teens who have difficult relationships with a father. There are also teens who have friends, an active social life and better things to do than hang with parents. If you’re faced with a teen who doesn’t want to spend time with their father, what you do would be based on the situation.

“Michael and Jennifer have been amicably divorced for six years. They have three children ages 6-14. As outlined in their final decree of divorce they split custody of the children on a 60/40 basis. The children are with Jennifer 60% of the time, with Michael, 40% of the time.

“Until recently this arrangement worked well for both the parents and children. Jennifer worked weekends as a Registered Nurse and felt secure knowing her children were with their father and well cared for.

“Michael traveled with his job during the week and worried less about his children knowing they were safe and sound with their mother. The children benefited from the quantity and quality of time with both parents.

“Problems started when their oldest child became a teenager. Craig turned 14 and became less and less interested in spending Friday through Sunday night with his father.”

Read the full article here and the rest of our resources on teens and divorce here.

3. Family courts are ill equipped to protect women during and after a high conflict divorce.

Not only women but women’s children. Women deal with lawyers, judges, therapists, and court-appointed experts who are less than knowledgeable when it comes to the damage an ex with a personality disorder can cause.

“My divorce was tame compared to some. There were no domestic abuse issues, no custody battle issues; we went our separate ways with no physical harm done. I can’t say the same about emotional harm but, as I learned the Family Court System is ill-equipped to handle the conflict created when a man has a personality disorder or is hell-bent on using the system to punish their ex.

“As a matter of fact, it is my opinion the Family Court System is ill-equipped to protect anyone whose divorce is high conflict. Judges, Attorneys, Psychologists, and other court-appointed personnel EXPECT divorce to be one size fits all and when it isn’t lack the skills to support civility. What you get are platitudes and an attitude that if you are engaged with an ex who creates conflict you must be playing a role in the conflict also.”

Read the full article here and check out our resources on high conflict divorce here.

4. If you’re divorcing a narcissist, you’ll want to get ready for the reality of co-parenting with a narcissist.

Narcissists don’t’ co-parent, they counter-parent. Even if it’s in the best interest of their children, they will thwart your desires every step of the way.

“Co-parenting with a narcissist is like being the tin man from the wizard of oz, having motion sickness, on the downward spiral of a roller coaster, with a loose harness, after eating ice cream and 5 corn dogs – doing the tango with a peg leg and an eye patch all the while sewing back together and re-stuffing down feathered pillows your dog chewed up and scattered throughout the back forty – it’s freaking difficult!!”

Read the full article here and other resources about children and co-parenting here.

5. Fathers have a right to equal parenting time. The problem is most don’t follow through with their desire for equal parenting time.

We all hear about how the courts are biased against fathers when it comes to child custody. Men, especially hear such nonsense from men’s rights groups. When you go into court believing the deck is stacked against you, you’re less likely to fight for what you want.

“Before and during the divorce process each parent has the same legal right to custody of a child. Mothers and fathers are on legal standing until one or the other gives up or is denied full custody rights.

“What does this mean? It is complicated! Even more complicated if you don’t know your state’s child custody laws. Bottom line, until you have signed a custody agreement or a judge has handed down a custody opinion, each parent has the same legal rights when it comes to where a child lives, who the child lives with and anything regarding the child.

“I’ve found that most fathers do not have a clear understanding of their legal divorce rights where the children are involved. “

Read the full article here and check out our resources on child custody here.

6. What does more damage to relationships than codependency? Not much. Here’s our tongue-in-cheek look at codependency.

I’m codependent no more! You’re codependent no more! Oh wait, I see some drama over there that requires my attention.

“According to Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, “As professionals began to understand codependency better, more groups of people seem to have it. Adult children of alcoholics, people in relationships with emotionally disturbed people, people in relationships with irresponsible people and people in relationships with abusive people.”

“Basically, a codependent is a person who gives more in a relationship than they get and holds onto the hope that their partner will change. Codependents enable, make excuses and make the relationship problems worse due to their inability to care more for themselves than they do their relationship partner or, the relationship.”

Read the full article here and take a look at our other resources on codependency here.

7. Defiance of court orders by men; it happens often but what’s done about it?

My ex defied every aspect of our final divorce decree. EVERY ASPECT. It’s common practice for some men to be defiant and not believe orders handed down by the court apply to them. So, what happens to them? In my case, nothing. He got away with it over and over again.

“Over the years, I’ve spoken to many women whose ex-husbands were defying divorce court orders to pay child support. What most of them have learned when they take their ex back to court for contempt is that judges rarely throw a deadbeat in jail. They threaten to do so, but in my opinion, it isn’t often that a judge will follow through on a threat.

“Not enforcing a court order undermines a woman’s ability to care for her children. For some reason though, a judge seems more concerned with how being jailed will negatively affect a deadbeat father. It isn’t only child support orders that aren’t enforced — in the Family Court System, it’s any order.”

Read the full article here and our resources on divorce and an irrational ex here.

8. Narcissists are emotional and psychologically abusive. If married and divorced one, you’ll spend time wondering why.

Why do they do the damaging things they do? That’s what I wondered and spent time researching when my ex and I went through a divorce. All we want is understanding but, does understanding help?

“If we’ve been hurt by someone we love it’s only natural to want to find understanding in what happened. We believe that if we can only understand our pain will lessen.

“So, whether you’re a therapist, researcher or victim, there is an interest in knowing why the narcissist emotionally and psychologically abuses.

“There are many theories. Probably as many theories about why the narcissist is narcissistic as there are people wondering why.”

Read the full article here and our resources on healing from narcissistic abuse here.

9. Psychologically abusive relationships rob you of your ability to trust in yourself to make proper choices and have faith in yourself.

Gaslighting, belittling, demeaning, undermining are just a few tactics used by a psychological abuser. When you’ve been on the receiving end of those tactics for years it only makes sense that you’ll lose faith in your ability to make choices that are in your best interest.

“Many assume it is simply the idea of breaking up a family that keeps us in the cycle of abuse. But I am here to say … no… that is not what made me stay.

“Forgive me as my ability to express myself in writing has never been my strong suit… but here goes.

“We stay because we have been controlled and manipulated to believe that we have no other viable options. There are often elements of financial control among a lot of other seemingly simple reasons that keep us in “it”. But they are not simple…not simple at all.

“I can only speak on my own behalf here, but I suspect that others will be able to relate on some level.”

Read the full article here and learn more from our resources on psychological and emotional abuse here.

10. Everyone’s story is different but when dealing with a narcissist, you can bet they all include damage done to children.

Narcissistic fathers discount the damage they do to their children during and after divorce. They view their children, not as an extension of themselves but as pawns to be used in their fight for control over a woman they feel stands in their way of having total control. If you’ve divorced a narcissist, you’re familiar with the damage they do to children.

“There is nothing more heart wrenching than having no recourse against someone who is doing grave emotional harm to your children. If a stranger had done what their father did, I would have had recourse. But, since it was their father, the family court system turned a blind eye to his behavior.

“It started from the beginning, the very beginning before I even knew there would be a divorce.

“I’m sharing this information in bullet points in order to keep my thoughts straight and not running together. We’ve been divorced for nearly 2 decades, there is no way I can share the entire story but, these are issues I remember as being the most damaging.”

Read the full article here and more about Maddie Grace here.

The post DivorcedMoms Top 10 Divorce Articles From 2019 appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Interested in how a divorce court will value your home? Read this blog post to find out how

Interested in how a divorce court will value your home? Read this blog post to find out how

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

Once you have hired a licensed real estate appraiser, real estate agent or done a comparable home search on the county appraisal website to determine a likely value for your home, you have done most of the work that is related to value your house for the purpose of selling it. The next thing you to do is consider whether or not you need to remove “incidental” costs associated with the sale of the home from that appraised value.

Incidental costs are things like closing costs and realtor fees. From my experience, these costs are way too speculative to include in the value of the house. Closing costs vary across properties and title companies. There are no specific cases that I am aware of in Texas that say one way or the other how this subject is to be treated. However, I would be willing to argue based on the previous couple points I made that they should not be deducted from the appraised value of the home.

Fair market value is what you are going after when looking for the value of your family home

Anyone of us who took high school economics is likely familiar with the term “fair market value.” This term can be defined as the amount that would be paid in cash by a willing buyer who desires to buy but is not required to buy, to a willing seller who desires to sell but is no under no necessity of selling. That definition is one that is pulled from something called the Texas Pattern Jury Charge. There is no mention of realtor charges or closing costs in that definition. Closing costs vary from transaction to transaction. Realtor costs may not even come into being if a realtor is not used or if the house is never actually sold.

Reimbursement claims and the family home

This is a subject that is near and dear to the heart of almost every person who goes through a divorce. Reimbursement claims can be a difficult subject to explain to clients because it is a concept that tugs at concepts of “fairness” and “equity.” If you contributed income to the separate property of your spouse, in a divorce you have a right to be reimbursed for those monies. However, it can be very difficult to calculate those kinds of claims.

There is nothing in the Texas Family Code that instructs a family court judge on how to calculate to proceed on a reimbursement claim made in conjunction with a divorce case. The judge has full discretion on determining how much reimbursement to award to a petitioning spouse or even whether or not to acknowledge the claim.

For instance, if your spouse has a separate property home with a mortgage on it that has been paid during the course of your marriage then you are in a position where you will need to prove how much of the principal of that mortgage has been reduced during the course of your marriage in order to proceed with a reimbursement claim. Mortgage statements pulled from the internet or requested directly from your lender are a means to do so. Many websites have amortization schedules that show how much of each mortgage payment goes towards principal, interest and escrow funds. Tax returns that show mortgage payments as well.

Finally, another relatively common reimbursement claim that we see in divorce cases is when community money is used to make improvements on a separate property home. An example could be if your spouse and you used your combined incomes to make an improvement on a home that you owned before you two got married. The value of your reimbursement claim would be how much the value of the home increased due to the improvements that were made.

As you could probably guess based on the time we devoted in yesterday and today’s blog posts to determining how to value your family home, this can be quite a difficult job. It is not readily apparent how much a new kitchen, pool, updated bathroom or solar panels on the roof actually added value to the home. A real estate agent can serve as an expert witness in this capacity if it were an issue brought up at trial.

How can your family home be divided in your divorce?

There are many options available to a judge when it comes to dividing up your family home in a divorce. Keep in mind that these options are only available to a judge if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on your own when it comes to valuing the home and then either dividing it in a sale or allowing one of you to remain in the home while the other has their community property interest bought out.

Option number one is the clearest cut and simple for a judge: he or she would simply determine that the home is the separate property of either you or your spouse. No muss, no fuss. Next, the house could be awarded to either you or your spouse. Along with this option, the judge could award you the house but allow your spouse to reside in the home for a specific period of time after the divorce. This option could be chosen in the event that your spouse showed that it would be difficult to locate suitable housing quickly after the divorce.

For those of you who reside in rural areas, your real estate could be partitioned by the judge. For instance, consider that if you were awarded the home, your spouse could be awarded the majority of the land surrounding the home to compensate him for the loss he would take in his community property interest in that residence.

Finally, your house could be ordered to be sold and the equity (after closing costs and realtor fees) would be split between you and your spouse based on a percentage.

What happens with the mortgage on your home after a divorce?

This is a very relevant subject to discuss in conjunction with a divorce case. Most of us reading this blog post live in a suburban/urban environment in a single family home. Whether or not you would consider your immediate surroundings to be a neighborhood or not, it is likely that you and your spouse own a home in a neighborhood-type environment where the mortgage on that home bears both your name and that of your spouse. What many attorneys fail to do in connection with a divorce is properly explain what can happen with the mortgage once your divorce is over with. I will seek to provide you with some clarification on this subject so you enter your own divorce with a bit more knowledge.

Let’s say, for example, that your spouse is awarded the family home in your divorce case. He is also ordered to pay the mortgage going forward- a mortgage that has both of your names on it. Here is what I would tell you if you were represented by our office. First, the divorce decree is a legal document that is binding upon you and your spouse but it does not affect your personal obligation under the mortgage contract. If you’re soon to be ex-spouse fails to make payments on time for the mortgage then your credit score gets dinged.

Next, if you do well in the financial portions of your divorce and have a down payment ready to go for your next house you may have trouble qualifying for a mortgage. The reason for this is that your name is already on a mortgage to your former home. Your debt to income ratio will be skewed as a result of your technically owing money on another home. It is theoretically possible to not be able to qualify for a mortgage on your new house if your spouse is not current on payments on the “old” mortgage.

How can you get your name off the joint mortgage to your old house?

That discussion should lead you to ask the question of how, then, can you go about removing your name from the old mortgage to your former home?

One option that I have seen implemented in a final decree of divorce (the final orders for a divorce case in Texas) would be to order your spouse to refinance the home within X number of days from the date the divorce becomes final. No refinance is possible until the divorce is finalized since ownership of the home before that time is still in both your name and his. It is possible that your spouse, while able to be awarded the home in your divorce, does not qualify financially to be able to refinance the mortgage into their own name. A low income, low credit score, bad debt to income ratio or a combination of all of those factors could play into the reason why this is the case.

Another option to pursue could be that your spouse can sign documents that cause him to assume complete responsibility for the mortgage moving forward. The availability of this option depends on your lender. Your spouse should contact the mortgage lender as soon as he becomes aware that he is going to get the house in your divorce to see if this is an option that he can pursue. Again, however, your spouse needs to show that he can qualify for the process of assuming sole responsibility on the mortgage.

If neither of these two options is available then the home will likely be ordered to be sold by the judge. Most judges will not put you or your spouse in a position to fall behind in the mortgage payment and put both of you in a bad financial position. As a result, if no suitable arrangement can be made it is very likely that a sale of your home will commence.

Pulling equity out of your family home in a Texas divorce

Selling the home is by far the easiest method of pulling equity out of your home during a divorce. The equity can then be split between you and your spouse without much fuss, according to the terms of the judge’s orders or your mediated settlement agreement. Usually, if your spouse is awarded the home in your divorce then the equity can be pulled out in the following manners.

If your spouse gets the house, then you will be awarded a community property asset that equals the share of equity that would ordinarily be yours had the house been sold. Or, if there is insufficient community property to divide you may be able to get some portion of your spouse’s community property share as well as a separate property bank account of your spouse’s.

We will discuss the additional ways to cash out the equity stake in a family home in tomorrow’s blog post. We hope that you have enjoyed today’s blog and we will return tomorrow to finish up where we left off by talking more about cashing out equity in the family home.

Questions about divorce and dividing up the family home? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan stand ready to assist you with any questions or concerns you have regarding your Texas family law case. Our attorneys have represented clients in every family court in southeast Texas and we do so with a great deal of pride.

To learn more about your case, our office or family law, in general, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to ask questions and receive feedback about your specific circumstances. Thank you for spending time with us today in reading our blog post.

And remember- the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is On Your Side!

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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mothers have an advantage in custody disputes

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

mothers have an advantage in custody disputes

 

If you are going through a divorce, a primary concern is often your children and your child custody arrangements. It’s difficult for any parent to contemplate not having their children living with them all of the time, but it can be even more difficult for mothers who have a close bond with their children.

If you and your husband cannot come to custody terms that you both can sign off on, the court will need to decide the matter for you. While many people think that mothers have a natural advantage in such disputes, the truth is far more complicated. Understanding the basics related to child custody can help you navigate the process while standing up for your own parental rights.

Legal Custody

Custody is divided into two major concerns that include physical custody (related to with whom the children reside at any given time) and legal custody. It’s important to recognize that in the vast majority of divorces, both parents share legal custody, which refers to a parent’s rights to make important decisions on behalf of their children. These decisions include:

  • Matters related to your children’s health and well-being, such as medical care
  • Matters related to your children’s education
  • Matters related to your children’s religious upbringing

These are fundamental issues that shape your children’s lives, and it’s very likely that you and your divorced spouse will continue to make these important decisions together, although one parent is sometimes given tie-breaking authority.

Physical Custody

Physical custody relates to with whom your children reside primarily and to their visitation schedule with the other parent. While many people believe that mothers have an advantage when it comes to physical custody, this really isn’t an accurate assessment in many cases.

Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes?

The Court’s Stance

If you and your divorcing spouse cannot come to mutually acceptable terms regarding your children’s custody arrangements, the court will intervene and make a determination of how you will split custody rights.

The court will always favor what is in the best interest of your children, but this is obviously open to interpretation, and it’s important to remember that the court has considerable discretion in the matter. You obviously know your children in a way that the judge never can, and you know what’s best for them.

Courts often favor the status quo when making child custody decisions. In other words, if the mother has been the primary caregiver and she and the children are living in the family home while the case is pending, the judge may be hesitant to upset the balance and may be more inclined to award the mother primary custody.

This is generally more a function of how things are commonly arranged than it is a function of favoring the mother or of the mother having an advantage in the matter.

The Considerations at Hand

In determining child custody arrangements, the court is guided by the children’s best interests, but in the process, it takes a wide range of variables into consideration, including:

  • The emotional connections between each parent and the children
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the children with a loving home and a healthy life
  • Any criminal history
  • Any history of domestic abuse – either physical, emotional, or sexual
  • Any substance abuse issues
  • Any pertinent parental considerations that could affect the decision, such as age or disability
  • The location of each parent’s residence (who lives closer to the children’s school, for example)

None of these issues are gender-specific and, as such, the court’s decision cannot favor the mother. Many mothers, however, are already providing primary custodial care, and courts are not fond of dramatically disrupting children’s lives when they’re already going through the emotional challenge of divorce. After all, divorce is hard on everyone, but children are especially vulnerable.

Your Children’s Voices

Many parents wonder if their children’s preferences will guide – or should guide – the court’s custody decisions. The fact is that many judges will speak to your children privately (especially older children) and will take their preferences into careful consideration, but the decision is simply not up to your children.

The court is making determinations related to your children’s custody exactly because they are children who need custodial care. When your children are adults, they’ll make their own important decisions, but for now, those decisions must be made for them. Your children’s voices, nevertheless, may help guide the court’s ruling.

Reaching a Resolution

If you’re going through a divorce, emotions are inevitably running high. The stress and heartache of divorce leave many couples unable to reach mutually agreeable terms on many important issues. Both of you, however, naturally put your children first, and if you can find a way to hammer out custody arrangements that you can both live with, the court and its considerable discretion won’t need to be involved in the process.

Reaching a compromise with your children’s father can come in many forms. If you aren’t able to work together personally (which isn’t uncommon), your attorneys can attempt to negotiate an arrangement, and you can also address the issue via mediation – with the legal guidance of your respective divorce attorneys.

The post Do Mothers Have an Advantage in Custody Disputes? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce

Will Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce?

Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce

 

Infidelity is a common cause of divorce throughout North America. However, the effect that an affair might have on the outcome of your divorce case will vary depending on your jurisdiction. Different laws set out different standards for how infidelity impacts a divorce, and the following is some information about adultery and some examples of how your divorce outcome might be swayed if your spouse was unfaithful.

Adultery as Grounds for Divorce

For a long time, a spouse had to state “traditional” grounds for divorce that were based on marital misconduct, such as adultery. While all jurisdictions in North America now allow no-fault divorce based on the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, some jurisdictions still allow spouses to claim fault-based grounds for divorce. In many cases, fault-based grounds can eliminate the need to be separated for a period of time before obtaining a divorce.

If you allege infidelity as grounds for a divorce, your spouse will have the opportunity to contest your allegations. If your spouse does contest, you will need to sufficiently prove the adultery occurred to obtain your divorce. This does not mean that you need to catch your spouse in the actual adulterous act, though you do need to present credible evidence that infers they were engaged in extramarital sexual conduct. Such evidence may include:

  • Statements from friends, family members, or other witnesses who knew about the affair
  • Credit card charges for gifts, hotel rooms, romantic meals, trips, or other expenses related to the affair
  • Emails or text messages
  • Not coming home often or another departure from normal routines without explanation
  • Seeing your spouse with another person

If you are unable to present evidence to support your claims of infidelity, the court can deny your petition for a divorce based on those grounds. You might need to file for no-fault divorce, which might require a period of separation before the case can get underway.

Adultery in a No-Fault Divorce

Many people file for no-fault divorce because it seems simpler or because their jurisdiction does not allow fault-based grounds. In this situation, infidelity may or may not play a role in the divorce process. While you can end your marriage without the court considering infidelity, your spouse’s conduct could still come into play when deciding certain issues in your divorce.

Property Distributions

In some cases, your spouse might have wasted marital assets on an affair. If you have records showing your spouse racked up credit card debt or otherwise spent money on gifts, meals, vacations, or other expenses related to their infidelity, you can claim your spouse wrongfully wasted assets that were rightfully half yours. In this type of situation, the court can decide to award you a larger property award to make up for the funds your spouse wasted for extramarital purposes.

Spousal Support Awards

Whether infidelity affects spousal support (or alimony) awards will depend on the law and policies in your jurisdiction. The laws can vary significantly, including the following:

  • Some jurisdictions prohibit judges from considering infidelity when it comes to spousal support, as the focus should be on the financial need of the recipient spouse
  • Some jurisdictions prevent a spouse from receiving alimony if they were unfaithful
  • Some jurisdictions entitle a spouse to a higher spousal support award if their spouse was unfaithful

It truly depends on where the divorce is occurring, and a knowledgeable divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction can advise you how infidelity might affect your alimony award.

Child Custody

Some spouses might think their children should not be around a parent who sets an immoral example by having affairs. However, a spouse’s infidelity does not make them automatically unfit to parent under the eyes of the law. Instead, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Some factors the court might consider include:

  • Is the adulterous spouse engaged in affairs with numerous people at the same time?
  • Does your spouse expose your child to inappropriate situations as a result of his affairs?
  • Is the adulterous behavior accompanied by substance abuse, being gone for long hours, or other behavior that puts the child at risk of harm or neglect?

If the court believes that your spouse’s parenting abilities are impacted by the circumstances accompanying the infidelity, it might impact the custody determination.

Resolving Your Divorce Case

Even if you are rightfully angry and hurt by your spouse’s infidelity, this should not be the driving force leading to a certain outcome of your divorce. Family courts encourage divorcing spouses to focus on resolution instead of blame and fault, as this often makes it easier to compromise and reach out-of-court agreements. In some cases, raising the issue of infidelity can improve your divorce outcome while, in others, it might simply distract from the important issues and not impact the outcome at all.

If you are filing for divorce because your husband was unfaithful, it is important to examine all of your options and strategies with an experienced divorce lawyer. This way, you can take the best approach to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

The post Will Infidelity Affect the Outcome of Your Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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husband seek spousal support

Can Your Husband Seek Spousal Support?

husband seek spousal support

 

There are several concerns in divorce cases, depending on your circumstances. These can include child custody arrangements, child support, the division of your marital property, and spousal maintenance – also known as alimony.

While a spousal maintenance award is never a given and the issue doesn’t come into play in every case, there are divorces in which maintenance plays an important role.

Whether your husband can seek spousal support or not will depend on a variety of variables. Understanding the basics as they relate to spousal maintenance can help you make decisions that protect your rights throughout the divorce process.

Can Your Husband Seek Spousal Support?

Maintenance Awards

Spousal maintenance is generally predicated on financial disparity. If, for example, you are the primary breadwinner and your husband was the primary caregiver for your children throughout your marriage, he might be able to successfully seek alimony until he is able to begin working and supporting himself. There are, however, a number of considerations to take into account. Generally, the longer you were married and the greater the difference in earning ability and assets between the two of you, the greater the chance that your husband will be eligible to seek spousal support.

Will Your Husband Be Awarded Alimony?

Every divorce comes with its own highly specific financial circumstances, but the general rule is that if your husband lacks the means to provide for himself and is incapable of attaining appropriate employment right away, he might be awarded maintenance.

This means that if your spouse is unemployed or simply doesn’t earn enough, if his portion of the marital assets aren’t sufficient to make up the difference, and if he doesn’t have the education, skills, or experience to obtain a job that would provide him with the necessary means to support himself – the court might look to you to help him move forward post-divorce with financial support.

It’s important to recognize, however, that alimony is very rarely a permanent proposition. Instead, alimony is a stopgap measure that will be used to help your ex find his financial footing after the divorce. Generally, the longer your marriage and the greater the financial disparity, the longer the alimony period.

Determining Spousal Maintenance

Every determination regarding alimony is specific to the individual situation, but there are some basics that almost universally apply. The court will take a variety of factors into careful consideration in determining whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, what its duration should be. These factors can include:

  • The duration of your marriage (having been married for ten years or more can play an important role)
  • The age and health status of both you and your husband
  • How your marital property was divided (each of your post-divorce assets)
  • The level of education each of you has (including your level of education now as compared to your level of education when you married)
  • Your earning capacity in relation to your husband’s earning capacity
  • The tax consequences related to your divorce
  • The contents of any premarital or postmarital contractual agreements (a prenup, for example)
  • The amount of time it will likely be necessary for your husband to become self-supporting at a level that’s comparable to the one you maintained as a married couple
  • Any contribution that your husband made to your education or to further your career during the course of your marriage
  • Any other circumstances that the court deems relevant

if the court determines that your husband is entitled to maintenance, it will then go about calculating the appropriate amount and duration, which will be predicated on your ability to pay while still satisfactorily supporting yourself.

What Does Maintenance Cover?

Maintenance can be a mechanism for making property division more equitable, a means of short-term support to help your ex-husband become financially self-sufficient, or a permanent support strategy for a spouse who has a limited ability to earn that cannot be rectified or who is outright unemployable (because of a disability, for example). Permanent maintenance is far less common than temporary maintenance.

When it comes to the division of marital property, there are instances when maintenance can help make the distribution more equitable. For example, if you own and manage a business that supported your family throughout your marriage, it can be very difficult to value and/or divide the business for divorce purposes.

If you keep the business, the court may award your ex-husband maintenance to help smooth out any disparity in the property division. Further, if your husband didn’t work or was underemployed during the course of your marriage, the court may award him temporary maintenance while he finds his way back into the work world and begins earning a sufficient salary.

Mitigating Circumstances

In most situations, there simply is no guarantee of maintenance. If the judge finds, for example, that your ex was taking advantage of your generosity by not working throughout the marriage, he or she could deny maintenance.

Further, if your husband’s marital misconduct – such as overly lavish spending or an extramarital affair – brought about the dissolution of your marriage, the judge can take that into consideration in determining whether maintenance is appropriate or not.

Perhaps more than any other divorce issues, the question of maintenance is highly specific to the situation at hand and often hotly contested. If you have maintenance concerns, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced divorce attorney on your side.

The post Can Your Husband Seek Spousal Support? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Should Judges Have Absolute Or Qualified Immunity?

Judicial Immunity

Stump V. Sparkman, Should Judges Have Absolute Or Qualified Immunity?, Further Readings

A judge’s complete protection from personal liability for exercising judicial functions.

Judicial immunity protects judges from liability for monetary damages in civil court, for acts they perform pursuant to their judicial function. A judge generally has IMMUNITY from civil damages if he or she had jurisdiction over the subject matter in issue. This means that a judge has immunity for acts relating to cases before the court, but not for acts relating to cases beyond the court’s reach. For example, a criminal court judge would not have immunity if he or she tried to influence proceedings in a juvenile court.

Some states codify the judicial immunity doctrine in statutes. Most legislatures, including Congress, let court decisions govern the issue.

Judicial immunity is a common-law concept, derived from judicial decisions. It originated in the courts of medieval Europe to discourage persons from attacking a court decision by suing the judge. Losing parties were required instead to take their complaints to an appellate court. The idea of protecting judges from civil damages was derived from this basic tenet and served to solidify the independence of the judiciary. It became widely accepted in the English courts and in the courts of the United States.

Judicial immunity was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Randall v. Brigham, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 523, 19 L. Ed. 285 (1868). In Randall the Court held that an attorney who had been banned from the PRACTICE OF LAW by a judge could not sue the judge over the disbarment. In its opinion, the Court stated that a judge was not liable for judicial acts unless they were done “maliciously or corruptly.”

In Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 335, 20 L. Ed. 646 (1871), the U.S. Supreme Court clarified judicial immunity. Joseph H. Bradley had brought suit seeking civil damages against George P. Fisher, a former justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Bradley had been the attorney for John H. Suratt, who was tried in connection with the assassination of President ABRAHAM LINCOLN. In Suratt’s trial, after Fisher had called a recess, Bradley accosted Fisher “in a rude and insulting manner” and accused Fisher of making insulting comments from the bench. Suratt’s trial continued, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Immediately after discharging the jury, Fisher ordered from the bench that Bradley’s name be stricken from the rolls of attorneys authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Bradley sued Fisher for damages relating to lost work as a result of the order. At trial, Bradley attempted to introduce evidence in his favor, but Fisher’s attorney objected to each item, and the judge excluded each item. After three failed attempts to present evidence, the trial court directed the jury to deliver a verdict in favor of Fisher.

On appeal by Bradley, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Judges could be reached for their malicious acts, but only through IMPEACHMENT, or removal from office. Thus, the facts of the case were irrelevant. Even if Fisher had exceeded his jurisdiction in single-handedly banning Bradley from the court, Fisher was justified in his actions. According to the Court, “A judge who should pass over in silence an offence of such gravity would soon find himself a subject of pity rather than respect.”

Since Bradley, the U.S. Supreme Court has identified some exceptions to judicial immunity. Judges do not receive immunity for their administrative decisions, such as in hiring and firing court employees (Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 108 S. Ct. 538, 98 L. Ed. 2d 555 [1988]).

Judges also are not immune from declaratory and injunctive relief. These forms of relief differ from monetary relief. Generally they require parties to do or refrain from doing a certain thing. If a judge loses a suit for DECLARATORY JUDGMENT or injunctive relief, he or she may not be forced to pay money damages, but may be forced to pay the court costs and attorneys’ fees of the winning party. For example, assume that a judge requires the posting of bail by persons charged in criminal court with offenses for which they cannot be jailed. If a person subjected to this unconstitutional practice files suit against the judge, the judge will not be given judicial immunity and, upon losing the case, will be forced to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and court costs. (Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 104 S. Ct. 1970, 80 L. Ed. 2d 565 [1984]).

The Court held in Pulliam that a judge could be forced to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and court costs under the 1976 Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988. Gladys Pulliam, a Virginia state court magistrate, had jailed two men for failure to post bail following their arrest for abusive language and public drunkenness. Under Virginia law, the defendants could not receive a jail sentence if convicted of these offenses. The plaintiffs sued under the federal CIVIL RIGHTS ACT 42 U.S.C.A. SECTION 1983 and obtained an INJUNCTION forbidding the judge to require bail for these offenses. The judge was also ordered to pay the defendants $8,000 as reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees.

Judges throughout the United States viewed the Pulliam decision as a serious assault on judicial immunity. The Conference of State Chief Justices, the JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES, the AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, and the American Judges Association lobbied Congress to amend the law and overturn Pulliam. Finally, in the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996 (Pub. L. No. 104-317, 110 Stat. 3847), Congress inserted language that voided the decision. The amendment prohibits injunctive relief in a § 1983 action against a “judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity” unless “a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.” In addition, language was added to § 1988 that precludes the award of costs and attorney’s fees against judges acting in their official capacity.

Filing a civil complaint against a judge can be risky for attorneys because the doctrine of judicial immunity is well established. In Marley v. Wright, 137 F.R.D. 359 (W.D. Okla. 1991), attorney Frank E. Marley sued two Oklahoma state court judges, Thornton Wright, Jr., and David M. Harbour, their court reporter, and others. Marley alleged in his complaint that Wright and Harbour had violated his constitutional rights in connection with a custody case concerning Marley’s children. The court not only dismissed the case, but also ordered Marley to pay the attorney’s fees that Wright and Harbour had incurred in defending the suit. According to the court, Marley’s complaint “was not warranted by existing law,” and Marley had used the suit “not to define the outer boundaries of judicial immunity but to harass judges and judicial personnel who rendered a decision he did not like.”

SUPREME COURT ROUNDUP; RULING SAYS STATE JUDGES MAY BE SUED IN CIVIL RIGHTS CASES

May 15, 1984

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The Supreme Court ruled today that state judges may be sued for civil rights violations and may be ordered to pay the lawyers’ fees of those who sue them successfully.

While the 5-to-4 decision permitted only suits for injunctions, not damages, it marked a significant retreat from the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity to which the Court has long adhered.

Six years ago, for example, the Court ruled that a judge who had ordered a young woman to be sterilized without her knowledge or consent was absolutely immune from the woman’s subsequent damage suit.

The decision today, written by Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun, retained the bar against suits for damages. But the dissenters, in an opinion by Associate Justice Lewis F. Powell, argued that there was little practical difference, from the point of view of a judge’s pocketbook, between a damage suit and an order to pay lawyers’ fees.

The decision upheld a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Virginia, ordering a state magistrate to reimburse two men for $7,000 in lawyers’ fees.

The two men were arrested for petty offenses for which they could not have received a jail sentence. However, the magistrate jailed them because they could not make bail. The men sued in Federal court for a declaration that it was unconstitutional to require bail for non-jailable offenses and for an injunction against the continuation of the practice. They won and were awarded lawyers’ fees under the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976, which provides that prevailing parties in civil rights suits can recover their lawyers’ fees from the losing party.

Technically, the only question before the Court was whether, in passing the 1976 law, Congress intended to make judges liable for lawyers’ fees. But to decide that question, the Court first had to decide whether a state judge could be subject to a civil rights suit for an injunction in the first place.

Suit Used 1871 Rights Act

The suit against the Virginia magistrate was brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, one of the most widely used Federal civil rights laws. Usually referred to as Section 1983, this law permits suits for damages or injunctive relief against those who, ”under color of state law” violate an individual’s civil rights.

In his opinion, Justice Blackmun reviewed the history of judicial immunity in English common law, from which the American immunity doctrine is derived. He concluded that because English judges were subject to certain common-law writs much like modern- day injunctions, there was no historical basis for extending judicial immunity to injunctive suits.

Justice Blackmun also said there was no evidence that Congress meant to exclude judges from injunctions under Section 1983.

His opinion, Pulliam v. Allen, No. 82- 1432, was joined by Associate Justices William J. Brennan Jr., Byron R. White, Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Powell said the majority opinion ”in effect eviscerates the doctrine of judicial immunity.” Subjecting judges to ”the ever-present threat of burdensome litigation,” he said, threatened judicial independence. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Associate Justices William H. Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor joined the dissent.

The Court dealt with these other matters today:

Jury ChallengesFor the second time in a year, the Court refused to consider the question of whether a black defendant’s rights are violated by the prosecution’s use of its peremptory challenges to keep blacks off the jury. The Court turned down three death penalty appeals from state appellate courts in Illinois challenging the exclusion of black jurors.

The Court had the cases under review for some months, an indication that the Justices may have been close to taking up the issue. But only Justices Marshall and Brennan voted to take the cases. Justice Marshall said he dissented from the Court’s ”refusal to confront” what he called ”one of the gravest and most persistent problems facing the American judiciary today.” (Williams v. Illinois, No. 83-5785).

Psychiatric ExamIn another death penalty case, the Court refused to hear a challenge by a Texas death row inmate to the conditions set by the trial judge on a psychiatric examination. The judge refused to order an examination of the defendant’s competency to stand trial unless the defendant agreed to permit the prosecution to use anything he said in the examination against him in the sentencing phase of the trial. In order to impose a death sentence under Texas law, a jury must find that a defendant would pose a continuing threat of violence. The defendant argued that the judge’s terms violated his constitutional right against compelled self-incrimination. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Justices Marshall and Brennan voted to hear the appeal. (Porter v. McKaskle, No. 83-5808).A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 1984, Section A, Page 15 of the National edition with the headline: SUPREME COURT ROUNDUP; RULING SAYS STATE JUDGES MAY BE SUED IN CIVIL RIGHTS CASES.

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Judicial Immunity

Judicial Immunity – Is NOT Absolute!

By David C. Grossack, Constitutional Attorney
Common Law Copyright © 1994 All Rights Reserved

Also see article on How To Sue A Judge and always remember, case law is ALWAYS changing.
Here is a selection of case/reference citations regarding judicial immunity when personally suing a Judge for money damages, from the collection of former Phoenix, AZ Attorney Robert A. Hirschfeld, JD. (Warning: Look up and read the cited case for consistency with your situation, before citing it in your own brief.)

When a judge knows that he lacks jurisdiction, or acts in the face of clearly valid statutes expressly depriving him of jurisdiction, judicial immunity is lost. Rankin v. Howard, (1980) 633 F.2d 844, cert den. Zeller v. Rankin, 101 S.Ct. 2020, 451 U.S. 939, 68 L.Ed 2d 326.

In Rankin v. Howard, 633 F.2d 844 (1980) the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an Arizona District Court dismissal based upon absolute judicial immunity, finding that both necessary immunity prongs were absent; later, in Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072 (1986), the Ninth Circuit, en banc , criticized the “judicial nature” analysis it had published in Rankin as unnecessarily restrictive. But Rankin’s ultimate result was not changed, because Judge Howard had been independently divested of absolute judicial immunity by his complete lack of jurisdiction.

Some Defendants urge that any act “of a judicial nature” entitles the Judge to absolute judicial immunity. But in a jurisdictional vacuum, (that is, absence of all jurisdiction) the second prong necessary to absolute judicial immunity is missing. Stump v. Sparkman, id., 435 U.S. 349.

“Where there is no jurisdiction, there can be no discretion, for discretion is incident to jurisdiction.” Piper v. Pearson, 2 Gray 120, cited in Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1872)

A judge must be acting within his jurisdiction as to subject matter and person, to be entitled to immunity from civil action for his acts. Davis v. Burris, 51 Ariz. 220, 75 P.2d 689 (1938)

Generally, judges are immune from suit for judicial acts within or in excess of their jurisdiction even if those acts have been done maliciously or corruptly; the only exception being for acts done in the clear absence of all jurisdiction. Gregory v. Thompson, 500 F2d 59 (C.A. Ariz. 1974)

There is a general rule that a ministerial officer who acts wrongfully, although in good faith, is nevertheless liable in a civil action and cannot claim the immunity of the sovereign. Cooper v. O’Conner, 99 F.2d 133

When a judicial officer acts entirely without jurisdiction or without compliance with jurisdiction requisites he may be held civilly liable for abuse of process even though his act involved a decision made in good faith, that he had jurisdiction. State use of Little v. U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 217 Miss. 576, 64 So. 2d 697.

“… the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the constitution is void, and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803).

“No judicial process, whatever form it may assume, can have any lawful authority outside of the limits of the jurisdiction of the court or judge by whom it is issued; and an attempt to enforce it betond these boundaries is nothing less than lawless violence.” Ableman v. Booth, 21 Howard 506 (1859).

“The courts are not bound by an officer’s interpretation of the law under which he presumes to act.” Hoffsomer v. Hayes, 92 Okla 32, 227 F 417.

> Journal: Cato Journal Vol 8, No. 1 – 1988
> Author : Bruce Benson
> Title : An Institutional Explanation for Corruption of Criminal Justice Officals

> Journal: Cato Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1987
> Author : Robert Craig Waters
> Title : Judicial Immunity versus Due Process: When Should a Judge Be Subject to Suit?

Justice Field in Bradley v. Fisher. (13 Wall) 353 (1871) stated: “…judges of courts of superior or general jurisdiction are not liable to civil actions for their judicial acts, even when such acts are in excess of their jurisdiction.”

“The doctrine of judicial immunity originated in early seventeenth-century England in the jurisprudence of Sir Edward Coke. In two decisions, Floyd & Barker and the Case of the Marshalsea, Lord Coke laid the foundation for the doctrine of judicial immunity.” Floyd & Barker, 77 Eng. Rep. 1305 (1607; The Case of the Marshalsea, 77 Eng. Rep. 1027 (1612) were both cases right out of the Star Chamber.

Coke’s reasoning for judicial immunity was presented in four public policy grounds:
1. Finality of judgment;
2. Maintenance of judicial independence;
3. Freedom from continual calumniations; and,
4. Respect and confidence in the judiciary.

The Marshalsea presents a case where Coke denied a judge immunity for presiding over a case in assumpsit. Assumpsit is a common-law action for recovery of damages for breach of contract. Coke then explained the operation of jurisdiction requirement for immunity:

. “[W]hen a Court has (a) jurisdiction of the cause, and proceeds iverso ordine or erroneously, there the party who sues, or the officer or minister of the Court who executes the precept or process of the Court, no action lies against them. But (b) when the Court has not jurisdiction of the cause, there the whole proceeding is [before a person who is not a judge], and actions will lie against them without any regard of the precept or process…”

Although narrowing the availability of judicial immunity, especially in courts of limited jurisdiction, Coke suggested that there was a presumption of jurisdiction and that the judge must have been aware that jurisdiction was lacking.

Thus, questions of personam, rem and res jurisdiction are always a proper issue before the court to obviate the defense that the court had no way to know they lacked jurisdiction.

“Stump v Sparkman Revisited” continues to show it was Chief Justice Kent (circa 1810) that was instrumental in establishing the “doctrine” of JI in America, in Yates v. Lansing, 5 Johns 282. Thereafter Justice incorporated the “doctrine” in two cases: Randall v. Brigham, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 523, and Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 335 (1871). Both Yates and Randall dealt with officers of the court.

“The belief that Bradley narrowed the scope of the doctrine respresents a serious misunderstanding of the decision. First, Bradley provides no authority for the belief that a judge of general jurisdiction may be liable for acts taken in absence of subject matter jurisdiction. The distinction between excess of jurisdiction and absence of jurisdiction in the opinion is simply explanatory. Because a court of general jurisdiction has jurisdiction over all causes of action, a judge of such a court will always be immune for his judicial acts, even if he exceeds his authority. See Bradley, 80 U.S. at 351-52.”

CASE NOTE: “Federal tort law: judges cannot invoke judicial immunity for acts that violate litigants civil rights; Robert Craig Waters. Tort & Insurance Law Journal, Spr. 1986 21 n3, p509-516”

A Superior Court Judge is broadly vested with “general jurisdiction.” Evidently, this means that even if a case involving a particular attorney is not assigned to him, he may reach out into the hallway, having his deputy use “excessive force” to haul the attorney into the courtroom for chastisement or even incarceration. Mireles v. Waco, 112 S.Ct. 286 at 288 (1991). Arguably, anything goes, in a Superior Court Judge’s exercise of his “general jurisdiction”, with the judge enjoying “absolute judicial immunity” against tort consequences. Provide he is not divested of all jurisdiction.

A Judge is not immune for tortious acts committed in a purely Administrative, non-judicial capacity. Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. at 227-229, 108 S.Ct. at 544-545; Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. at 380, 98 S.Ct. at 1106. Mireles v. Waco, 112 S.Ct. 286 at 288 (1991).

Administrative-capacity torts by a judge do not involve the “performance of the function of resolving disputes between parties, or of authoritatively adjudicating private rights,” and therefore do not have the judicial immunity of judicial acts. See: Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 98 L.Ed.2d 555, 108 S.Ct. 538 (1988); Atkinson-Baker & Assoc. v. Kolts, 7 F.3d 1452 at 1454, (9th Cir. 1993). A Judge as a State Actor is not vested with the sovereign immunity granted to the State itself . See: Rolfe v. State of Arizona, 578 F.Supp. 987 (D.C. Ariz. 1983); Rutledge v. Arizona Bd. of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345, (9th Cir, 1981) cert. granted Kush v. Rutledge, 458 U.S. 1120, 102 S.Ct. 3508,73 L.Ed.2d 1382, affirmed 460 U.S. 719, 103 S.Ct. 1483, 75 L.Ed.2d. 413, appeal after remand 859 F.2d 732, Ziegler v. Kirschner, 781 P.2d 54, 162 Ariz. 77 (Ariz. App., 1989).

It is said that absolute judicial immunity is favored as public policy, so that judges may fearlessly, and safe from retribution, adjudicate matters before them. True. But equally important, is the public expectation that judicial authority will only be wielded by those lawfully vested with such authority.

The history of Arizona’s admission to the Union reveals at least one reason why historic public policy in Arizona would favor ARCP Rule 42(f)(1)’s complete and expeditious divestiture of jurisdiction, and its concurrent divestiture of absolute judicial immunity in the event a renegade judge persists in wielding the tools of his office after having been affirmatively stripped of them.

In 1912, the U.S. Congress refused to admit Arizona to the Union for the stated reason that Arizona’s proposed Constitution provided the public with a mechanism for removing sitting judges from office. Joint Res. No. 8, 8/21/11, 37 U.S. Stat. 39, cited in Vol. 1, Ariz. Rev. Stats., p.130. To facilitate admission to the Union, the judge-removal mechanism was excised from the State Constitution, allowing Arizona to become a State on 2/14/12. Soon afterward, on 11/5/12, Arizona voters restored the mechanism by amendment. Ariz. Constitution, Art. VIII “Removal from Office”, section 1; A.R.S. Vol. 1, p. 178. So strong was the citizens’ distrust of sitting State Court Judges in Arizona, that after Arizona copied the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it added the present Rule 42(f)(1) to provide a mechanism for a litigant to permanently remove the assigned judge from the case.

The difference between selectively disabling a judge in various aspects of adjudication (such as during the appellate period) and the permanent extinguishment of his jurisdiction in a given case, has a logical relevance to a Judge’s expectation of enjoying absolute judicial immunity in that case.

In examining entitlement to immunity, the U.S. Supreme Court focused upon the nature of the act: is it an act ordinarily performed by a Judge? Unfortunately, judges sometimes exceed their jurisdiction in a particular case. But an act done in complete absence of all jurisdiction cannot be a judicial act. Piper v. Pearson, id., 2 Gray 120. It is no more than the act of a private citizen, pretending to have judicial power which does not exist at all. In such circumstances, to grant absolute judicial immunity is contrary.

How to Sue a Judge Without Using a Lawyer

By David C. Grossack, Constitutional Attorney
Common Law Copyright © 1994 All Rights Reserved

Has a judge violated your constitutional rights? Have you been discriminated against by being treated differently than other people in similar situations by reason of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual preference or political opinion? Have you lost certain rights without a meaningful hearing or even an opportunity to be heard?

Have you been deprived of any other constitutional protection? Have you been subject to Court action for the purpose of intimidating you from exercising an opinion, or practicing your faith? Don’t let them get away with it.

Although it is almost impossible to recover monetary damages from a judge (unless you can prove he or she acted ultra-vires beyond his or her legal jurisdiction) it is in fact possible to obtain relief in equity against a judge through civil rights actions. Equitable relief includes:

a. declaratory relief – (rulings by another judge in the form of opinions establishing the constitutionality or lack of constitutionality of another judges actions.)

b. injunctive relief – a command or order to do something or refrain from doing so.

As a general rule, however, judges cannot be held liable for money damages for acts done in the exercise of his judicial function, within the limits of his jurisdiction, no matter how erroneous, illegal or malicious his acts may be. (48A Corpus Juris Secundum §86) A minority of decisions have held that if an inferior judge acts maliciously or corruptly he may incur liability. Kalb v. Luce, 291 N.W. 841, 234, WISC 509.

Federal Civil Rights statutes, and possibly Bivens actions, appear to offer the best path for redressing constitutional grievances with state and federal judges, respectively, in Federal Court. As a practical matter, such cases will usually be brought by pro se litigants. Neither the politics nor economics of law practice permits lawyers to pursue such cases nor makes them affordable except to a small elite of citizens.

However, lawyers who do successfully sue state judges in federal court in Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 cases can recover attorney’s fees from judicial defendants provided they can show time sheets kept contemporaneously with their work.

The most important step you have to take in beginning your lawsuit is in writing the complaint that will be conforming to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (available in every Government Bookstore or from the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.)

Properly drafted complaints need not be prepared by a lawyer. All that is required is a very fundamental understanding of a few basic constitutional principles and a typewriter and paper. Handwritten complaints can also be filed in court.

Each federal court publishes its own local rules which can impose some additional requirements, but essentially there are only a handful of things you need to know. 1. Each complaint has a caption reading “United States District Court, District of (name the jurisdiction e.g. Southern New York or Eastern California.) 2. Each complaint includes a caption indicating the name of the plaintiff, and the name of the defendant. The words “individually and in his official capacity” should appear after the name of the defendant judge. The words “Verified Complaint” should appear on the right side of the caption. Your caption should appear like this:

United States District Court
District of (State)
Civil Docket No. _______

John Doe,
Plaintiff
vs. VERIFIED COMPLAINT
Bobby Roe,
individually and in his/her official capacity as Justice of the Superior Court ) of [*****] County,
Defendant

A couple of spaces below, you must begin to spell out your reasons for bringing your complaint to Court. Make an outline of your case. First, state your “Jurisdictional Basis” in Paragraph I. I usually write as follows:

JURISDICTIONAL BASIS

I. Plaintiff claims federal jurisdiction pursuant to Article III § 2 which extends the jurisdiction to cases arising under the U.S. Constitution. Next you should write Paragraph II stating the precise Statutory Authority why you brought the case. If you are suing a state judge, you will state:

II. Plaintiff brings this suit pursuant to Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 for violations of certain protections guaranteed to him by the First, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments (select which apply) of the federal Constitution, by the defendant under color of law in his/her capacity as a judge in the Superior Court of (****) County.

If you are suing a federal judge, state:

“Plaintiff brings this action against (name), a federal judicial officer, pursuant to Title 28 U.S. Code § 1331, in claims arising from violations of federal constitutional rights guaranteed in the (fill in) amendments to the U.S. Constitution and redressable pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Narcotics Agents 403 U.S. 388 (1971).”

Be aware that the issue of whether federal judicial officers can in fact be sued under this authority is unresolved, but my opinion is that there is a strong implication in the affirmative based on the language in many cases.

Your complaint should then have a section entitled “Parties”. The next two paragraphs would read:

III. Plaintiff (Your name) is a natural person residing at (Your address), (County), (State).

IV. Defendant is a Judge presiding at (fill in.)

Following this you must now describe your claim in detail, giving legal and factual basis for your case. This portion of the case is entitled “Statement of Case”

What kind of factual pattern would give rise to a successful claim under the federal civil rights law? Title 42 U.S. Code § 1983 reads as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

The burden of proof is upon the plaintiff to show that the defendant judge acted unconstitutionally or outside of his/her jurisdiction. If the judge engaged in an egregious discrimination against males in a divorce court, minorities in state criminal cases, members of an unpopular religious group in confrontation with government authorities and treated suspiciously in court or members of a “fringe” political group, these situations can give rise to a claim of denial of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

If a judge permits an ex parte attachment, i.e. seizure of real estate without giving you notice of a hearing in a state court proceeding, this is a deprivation of property without due process, violating the Fifth Amendment as well as the Fourteenth Amendment.

Ex parte restraining orders forcing men or women out of their homes based on abuse allegations in state courts are a primary and rampant example of violations of constitutional rights today, and certainly actionable in federal court.

The first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights are self explanatory. Violations of any of the rights described in these amendments give rise to causes of action, both against state judges under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and arguably against federal judges in Bivens actions.

Pro se litigants should give a clear and concise description of what happened in chronological order, identifying the judge, the date, time, and place of his or her action, and specifying which acts violated which constitutional amendments.

The complaint finishes with a section entitled “Prayer for Relief.” In such a case you can ask for an injunction ordering another judge to so something, or to refrain from doing something. Successful use of these suits has been made to nullify attachments, end incarcerations, declare laws or court practices unconstitutional and scare the heck out of black robed tyrants with gavels. See Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522 (1983).

I often phrase my prayers for relief as follows:

Wherefore plaintiff prays this Court issue equitable relief as follows:

1. Issue injunctive relief commanding defendant to . . .

2. Issue declaratory relief as this Court deems appropriate just.

3. Issue other relief as this Court deems appropriate and just.

4. Award plaintiff his costs of litigation.

Respectfully submitted,

(Your signature)

Your name printed
Your address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone No.

Statement of Verification

I have read the above complaint and it is correct to the best of my knowledge.

Your signature

Complaints are filed in the Civil Clerk’s Office in the United States District Court for your district.

Federal rules now allow for service of process by certified mail. You will be required to serve the defendant judge and also your state attorney general if you are suing a state judge.

The pro se road will be easier if you study the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, obtain a Black’s Law Dictionary and familiarize yourself with legal research methods. You must also read the Local Rules of the Federal Court where you are suing, and learn Constitutional law fast.

Using a lawyer as a coach is helpful. Bear in mind that your lawsuit is disfavored because it is against a judge. Nevertheless, our system of “justice” is in such tough shape that suits against judges are a socio-political necessity.

Complaints should be photocopied, disseminated to the legislature, the media and political action groups.

Perhaps the cumulative impact of these suits will bring a healthy radical change for the American people.

The author is an attorney in private practice in Boston.

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NOTE: Please read article and cases related to Judicial Immunity before taking action.