“I love it when a plan comes together.” Those words were made famous in my childhood by George Peppard when he was playing Col. John “Hannibal” Smith in that great television show “The A-Team,” soon to be a major motion picture. In the show, the team of ex-military men who had been wrongly accused fought the forces of evil and in the process the good guys won, and hilarity ensued. Ah the golden years of television, but I digress.
This past Sunday night I received an e-mail from one of the private investigators I have working on a case. It’s been a difficult case because the ex-wife has been especially diligent about covering her tracks. When she and my client divorced she was awarded spousal support in a very large amount every month.
Everyone who pays alimony hates it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, straight or gay, if you’re paying money to your ex each month, you’re going to resent it, and them. The spouse getting the money may enjoy the funds, but they need to be aware that with those funds comes a prayer each month for their death. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has to pay tells me they have thoughts of the death of their ex.
I think it’s pretty much a human reaction. Spousal support is a reminder of a relationship, and while we might want to remember the good times, let’s face it, it’s the bad times you remember when you’re writing a check every month. It’s like paying for someone else to go out to dinner, but you don’t get to enjoy the meal.
Which brings me to the current case. Man and woman get divorced, she gets a large monthly amount, for a long, long time, until she cohabitates romantically with someone, or re-marries. She decides that she wants to move, because she’s met “him.” But she doesn’t want to give up the monthly income from the ex, so she puts all of her addresses to a P.O. Box. She refuses to tell her own children where she is living.
My client keeps paying and it’s killing him. He knows she’s taking him for a ride, but what to do? He hires me, and the first thing I say to do is hire a private investigator to find out where she lives and what the real story is. We have enough clues to start digging around where she lives, and in the fact finding process, it turns out the new boyfriend has an ex-wife of his own. She’s kind of chatty.
As the investigation proceeds, it comes out that maybe there’s been a marriage that no one was invited to, so that the alimony checks keep coming from my client. This is precisely the type of information that my plan was designed to find out. It’s the crucial piece of information that will set my client free from the fraud and deceit of the ex so that he can stop praying for her death.
When people become deceitful, they don’t realize the cost to their family. A few years ago, we had a case where the ex-husband had forgotten to tell his wife about the $20 million or so that he had squirreled away in the Bahamas. He kept claiming poverty, but she knew better. When it finally came out that there was a huge amount of money that had been kept separate from the wife, the damage that was done, was not to the wife, but was to the children. It was their relationship with their father that was hurt the most. They now had a father who they knew was willing to sell them out in exchange for his own financial well-being.
People tell me often how hard they think it must be to do what I do. They’re right, it is hard when you care about your clients and you get involved in their lives. But every now and then you get a win like finding out that the scumbag deceitful ex has remarried, or where the hidden millions are. You can be sure that as soon as I have a copy of a marriage license I’ll be in front of a judge asking for termination of spousal support.
That’s the plan at least, and I love it when a plan comes together.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.