The call came in on Friday, at 3:30 p.m. of course. His employer was still not clear on whether or not to terminate the alimony that we had fought so hard to end. It was a client who I had taken a great liking to. He’d been ordered to pay alimony of $2,800 a month for seven years, or until his ex-wife, (who I refer to as “The Evil One”) remarried, co-habitated with a man, or died.
Granted, there was a scenario that he was probably hoping for, but what he got was an ex who moved out of state, forwarded all of her mail to a P.O. box, and used a cell phone.
We knew she had to be living with man, but wanted to keep the alimony coming, which is why she went to such great lengths to hide her real whereabouts. Her own daughters were kept in the dark about her home address, which was smart on her part, because her daughters liked their stepfather, my client, more than their own mother.
Knowing that someone is living with their boyfriend and proving it are two very different things. I told my client that we had to hire a private investigator to get enough evidence to show a court the truth.
Men are funny. Even after all that The Evil One had done to my client, and there was a lot, and even after she’s been taking money from him that she’s not entitled to, he was still hesitant about playing hardball with her. But when I pointed out the remaining $140,000, in after tax dollars, he was going to have to pay her would put him in a new house, he was a bit more amenable to intensifying the battle.
I interviewed a couple of private investigators in her state, and finally decided on one who I could get a hold of at all hours of the day and night. We started with the basics of home address, new boyfriend’s name and a background check on him.
Turned out that this new guy had an ex-wife of his own. And a nasty, vicious, knock-down, drag out custody battle. It’s amazing how much animosity people create, which is a mistake because the animosity makes people do stupid things that come back to haunt them.
Once we knew there was a vicious battle, we had to get the transcripts of the court hearings to find out what was said. Lo and behold, The Evil One was a witness.
Some days you get incriminating evidence just served up to you. As I read through the transcripts, she testifies, under oath, that she is not only living with the new boyfriend, but that in fact they are married. I quickly read through his testimony, and he states the same thing.
Game over. My guy just won $140,000.
So I file a motion to get the spousal support terminated. You’d think that she would agree at this point, as I have her sworn testimony that she’s remarried. You’d be wrong.
She filed in court, under penalty of perjury, a declaration that says she’s not married, and not living with the new boyfriend. She didn’t recall testifying that she was married evidently.
When we get in front of the judge, she looks at the lawyer for The Evil One, and says, “So your client is either lying in Michigan, or she’s lying in California, either way she’s a liar.” Oops. I would never want to be that lawyer.
On the day of the hearing, The Evil One shows up in court, looking every inch the runway Diva, with 4-inch spike heels, perfectly coifed hair and manicured nails. She claims to be disabled. By contrast, her own daughter, who has come to testify against her mother, is in a wheelchair due to her neurological disorder that the government does not recognize as a disability.
It was one of the saddest situations I’ve seen in quite awhile. When I saw a mother choose to fight for money that she is not entitled to, and force her own daughter to testify against her, I saw true evil.
By stepping up the game, hiring an investigator and tracking down some prior testimony, we were able to stop the injustice of deception.
But this illustrates two points. One, like your momma told you, lying is wrong (her lies cost her $140,000). And two, you have to play hardball sometimes. My client would still be buying his ex-wife a house; instead, he gets to buy himself one.
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.