Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Going to Court, Part II

Two weeks to prepare. For some of the things I needed to do it was plenty of time, for others it wasn't.

When I told Curly that I'd been served she was not surprised. She told me that she suspected something was going on when I told her that the Ex was in a strangely happy mood. Curly was very upset by the whole thing - she gets aggravated when the Ex pulls her stunts. She sees me trying to do things the right way and sees nothing of the sort from the Ex. Curly even saw the long email I sent the Ex before I sent it - I wanted to make sure I didn't come across the wrong way.

For myself? I was actually laughing about it. Here I was for weeks thinking about having to take the Ex to court over a stupid bill and she decides to come after me! I looked at it as her doing me a favor because now I didn't have to take a day off to go file the paperwork. I wasn't very worried about it right then, mainly because I'd done so much to try to resolve the situation.

The first thing I did was call all of the doctors and pharmacies and request copies of all the bills. The Ex was supposed to give me receipts or actual bills to get reimbursed, not just provide me with a spreadsheet. So, in legal terms, she still had not met the requirements set forth in the divorce agreement. If I were less meticulous (and stupider), I'd just let it go at that and walk into court and claim that since she hadn't given me "official" paperwork it didn't count. However, that's just not me. Now that I knew the bills existed I made it my business to get everything I needed to determine what I owed.

Over the next two weeks I gathered as much information and evidence as I could. I had to divide everything into two parts - pre- and post- divorce. I'd found and reread the divorce agreement and it said exactly what I thought it did about the division of debt. In fact, it was even clearer than I'd hoped. I also had her financial affidavit and a previous one. The previous one was one of the ones where she was still trying to assign me half the debt (that was one step better than me taking it all, but not good enough), so she showed the debts at 50% her responsibility. The final one, reflecting our agreement, showed them at 100% her responsibility. The agreement specifically stated that it was her responsibility. So, basically, everything pre-divorce was hers. The post-divorce medical expenses were actually, under the agreement, 49% my responsibility.

I started going through and verifying the spreadsheets. I found a surprising number of mistakes. She had not done a very thorough job of keeping track of everything. After I added the expenses she had missed and calculating my share at 49% (instead of the 50% she was calculating it at) I found I owed about $100 or so more than she had claimed. It came out to a little over $400 total. I wasn't upset that it was more than she calculated - I was intent on making sure she got exactly what I owed. I have no problem paying my share of my son's medical bills. I was actually happy my calculations came out the way they did because I'd be walking into court ready and willing to pay more than she was claiming - I felt this would look good.

I also went through all my email. I printed out every email that went between us since the divorce became final. I went through my file and pulled out every handwritten note she'd given me. I even had the little sticky-note that said "owe allergist". As it turned out, the stack of paperwork I'd be bringing into court was over three inches tall.

As the court date closed in, I got more stressed about it. I felt I had a very strong case, but you can't help but worry about the unknown. Would she lie? Would she manufacture some evidence? Would she claim that she'd been telling me verbally about the medical bills?

I wrote up a summary of the whole situation to use as a reference when I was in court. There was so much information and evidence that I didn't trust myself to remember it all or to be able to come up with it at a moment's notice.

Here's what I had:

The Dissolution agreement which specifically dealt with all debt. It assigned all the bills in question to her.
Two copies of her financial affidavit, one at 50% (old), one at 100%.
The sticky-note that started the whole thing with the words "owe allergist"
Three emails I sent her trying to discuss the situation (which at the time was limited to one bill)
The long email I sent her, which nearly begged her to talk to me about the bill.
The email she sent me 6 days after I was served.
The court papers I had been served, which showed that she filed them the same day I sent her the long email.
The three spreadsheets she had sent me, six days after she filed the motion.
Printouts of the internal properties of the spreadsheets. You might have heard that Microsoft Office documents have information embedded in them. Included in that are when the document was created, edited and printed. She obviously didn't know this - I could now show the spreadsheets were created three days before she filed her motion - she never had any intention of telling me about the bills before she filed the motion.
Proof that I'd been providing my son's health insurance, at my own expense, for months.
A corrected version of her spreadsheet, with the things she missed.

Here's what she had:
Her spreadsheets.
An incomplete set of bills.

Here's what she didn't have:
Anything showing that she notified me about the bills.
Any responses to my first three emails trying to discuss the matter.
Anything else.

She was so confident that she'd just be awarded the money that she didn't really prepare anything more than what she'd submitted to the court.

What happened at court was interesting, entertaining, educational and very satisfying. For me. That's Part III.