California divorce: My ex is crazy! How do I get the judge to see this?!

Very frequently I have someone come to me and tell me that their ex is crazy and they just can’t get the judge to see it and understand. They give me dozens of examples of what he or she has done, telling me that it’s just not fair that the judge doesn’t see it. In these cases, there’s generally a couple things going on that we have to keep in mind.

First, the reality is that if your ex is crazy, then there’s a pretty high likelihood that the crazy behaviors spill over to you as well. Of course, your excuse is going to be that s/he makes me act crazy! And this may be the case, but from where the judge is sitting, it doesn’t matter. If you both are acting crazy, then the judge is not going to see a difference in the craziness. We can fix this, but it does take some finesse and strategy. Sometimes you may be doing something that seems perfectly reasonable, but doesn’t look so good to the judge. This is where we can really help, and where our experience really matters – we’ll show you how to fix your reputation in front of the court if it’s damaged.

Second, you have to learn how to back up your claims. If you say your ex is crazy and then give examples of the craziness that do not include hard, verifiable facts, then the judge won’t believe you. For example, if you say you showed up at the appointed time to pick up little Joey, and your ex wasn’t there, then your ex is going to be given the opportunity to respond. Your ex may say you were six hours late, didn’t show up at the right place, or showed up on a motorcycle and wanted to take little five year-old Joey away on it. You need substantiation. If your exchange spot is McDonald’s, go in and buy something and keep the time-stamped receipt. Take a picture of yourself in your car – time and date stamped – showing you were at your ex’s house at the appointed time. If you were ordered to contact a mediator or therapist or other professional and your ex won’t cooperate, then get an email showing YOUR contact and acknowledgement that your ex has failed to communicate. You have to give the judge something to go on.

Finally, you have to learn how to talk in court. Keep your emotions down. Stick to the facts. Do not engage in conversation with your ex – talk to the judge. Be respectful at all times, no matter what. If the judge is not hearing you, ask to be heard on an issue. Say thank you at the end, even if you’ve lost.

You have to gain credibility and use it, which can take time. You also have to distance yourself from the craziness so that you don’t get pulled into it.

What is conservatorship in California? Part Two: The process

So, you have a loved one who is no longer capable of taking care of themselves.  Last time, we talked about what a conservatorship is and why you may need one.  Now, we’ll look at the process. Unfortunately, the process is long and can be expensive.  Which is why it is so critical to get a power of attorney ahead of time for your loved ones.  Did you know that your children should have a power of attorney once they reach 18?  If your child is injured, you may not get automatic access to medical records and to make decisions on your adult teen’s behalf.  There’s more information in my article, Have a child heading to college? A few legal documents they need before they leave the house.

The bottom line is that every adult – every adult – needs to have a Power of Attorney in place to protect them should they become injured or otherwise incapacitated.  To be able to make decisions on another’s behalf, a power of attorney is required.  In addition, the health information privacy laws (HIPAA) will restrict who can see medical records unless you have a HIPAA-specific waiver.  If you’re concerned about your loved one not having a power of attorney, and their unwillingness to get one, then get one yourself so you can speak to the process and experience.

If you don’t have one and your loved one becomes incapacitated, then you will need to go to court to apply for a consevatorship.  Once the conservatorship is filed, which in California can cost $400 or more just for the court filing, the paperwork needs to be send to all first-degree relatives (children, parents, siblings, etc.).  A hearing is set to grant or deny the temporary conservatorship, and then a hearing is set for the permanent conservatorship, generally a couple months out.  In the meantime, any other relatives can file their own objections to your petition.  In addition, a court-appointed investigator talks with you, the family member who you think needs a conservatorship, doctors, caregivers, and everyone around in order to do a report for the court, either recommending the conservatorship or not recommending it.

In cases where the family is all on the same page, the process generally goes smoothly.  But this doesn’t change the fact that it can take six months or more, and cost several thousand dollars to accomplish.