Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Going to Court, Part I

It's hard to know where to start in telling the story of the latest court battle. I think it makes the most sense to just start at the beginning and not worry about what I might have mentioned already.

The Ex was not too happy with me one day, and when I brought my son back for the drop-off she had her little bit of revenge ready. She handed me a slip of paper which said (at the bottom) "owe allergist". I asked her what that meant and, after a bit of prodding, she finally explained that it was my share of our son's medical bill. I told her that this was her responsibility under the agreement, but she denied that, saying that her attorney said otherwise.

This bill has been a hot point for her for quite a while. Her initial proposal in the divorce negotiations was for me to take on all the marital debt and for her to take all the marital assets. She honestly believed that this was a reasonable position. She was very unhappy when she was told that I had the right to half of our marital assets and was responsible for half of our marital debt. She was unhappy about that because it meant that at the end of everything she'd have to come up with about $15000 to give me.

She continued to come up with reasons to support her belief that I was not entitled to any of the marital assets and that she was not responsible for any of the marital debt. It finally came to a head in a meeting that we finally got her to attend. Her attorney and my attorney working together finally got through to her that if she didn't compromise that the judge would simply split things down the middle.

I had no desire to make things hard for her, so I proposed that I would take my personal credit card debt and she would take everything else. That meant that she'd take on the rest of the marital debt and get to keep the equity we had in our condo. It meant that I was giving quite a bit of money, but it made things easier to settle. She was livid, even though this was very much to her advantage. She was crying, but was red-faced with anger when we broke the meeting up.

She later accused me of "screwing her" with the bills. This note was her opening salvo in an attempt to reassign all the debt we had settled back over to me.

Every week from that point forward I tried to talk to her about the bill. She refused to discuss it on most occasions, but I did get an interesting comment out of her when I told her I would take this to court if I had to. She said "If you think that, as a father, you'll go in there and not have to pay, you're crazy!". Obviously, she'd been getting ideas about how things went in court from somewhere.
I emailed her several times about it also. She never responded to any of my emails. Over the weeks I resigned myself to having to take her to court. I decided that I'd try one more time before I sent and filed papers. So one night I sat down and wrote a long and detailed email. I went over why I thought the bill was her responsibility. I went over how many times I'd tried to talk to her about it with no response. I told her that if she thought I was wrong about it she had to discuss it with me. Lastly, I told her that if she refused to communicate with me about it then I'd have no choice but to take her to court. I waited an hour or so before I actually sent it to make sure I didn't think of anything else. The day I sent this email is important for reasons you'll read in a little while. I expected a quick reply this time because of some of the things I said, but I was wrong. I didn't get anything for six days.

Six days later. When I saw the email I hoped that it meant that she'd finally decided to talk about the situation. How wrong I was. The email started out with a question - I won't quote it - asking me how I could sleep at night. She accused me of refusing to pay for our son's medical bills. It went downhill from there. It was vicious and very unfriendly. She told me that her attorney had told her that I was responsible for half of all medical bills, no matter how far back they went. She made accusation after accusation, and basically finished up with a statement that I could pay the allergist first and all the rest after that. Did you catch that? Weren't we talking about one bill before? Yes. Now we were suddenly talking about more than that one bill.

The full extent of it was covered in the attached spreadsheets. The three attached spreadsheets. The first covered 2003 and 2004, the second 2005 and the last one covered 2006. That's right. She was now going back through three years of bills and trying to reassign them to me. Some of them had already been paid (while we were married, before we even separated), but she was now claiming she was entitled to be reimbursed for half of them. She claimed I owed her $938, and that I had to pay a lot of the bills she hadn't paid on top of that.

It's important to note here that I'm responsible for half of all unreimbursed medical expenses for my son. That only applies to medical expenses that occurred since the divorce was final. Everything from before that is covered in the divorce agreement. The divorce agreement stated that I was required to reimburse her within 30 days of official proof of expense. From the date of the divorce until I received this email I had not received a single bill. She had been hoarding them the entire time.

I decided that I needed to analyze the spreadsheets before I responded to the email, which might take a little while. That weekend, however, things got even more interesting. When I picked up my son, the Ex was in a very chipper mood. I was suspicious of that, because it's so unusual. I even called Curly and told her about it. Later on I found out why she was in such a good mood. On returning my son, I was served. The papers simply stated that I had refused to pay medical expenses, as well as a couple of other minor things. The minor things were that she wanted proof that I carried our son's medicine. I found this last part as particularly stupid because all she had to do was ask me and I'd show it to her.

The timing of all these events is very interesting. Looking at the court papers, I could see the date she filed them. It was the same day that I sent the long email - remember I said that the date I sent it was very important? Well, she filed the paperwork during the day, and that evening I sent her the email, telling her that she couldn't keep refusing to communicate with me about the bill. Six days after that I received the first notification ever of any outstanding medical bills. Get that? She filed paperwork saying I'm refusing to pay medical bills, then six days later I get my first idea that I even owe anything.

The court papers gave me just over two weeks to prepare.