Appealing the court's decision

My ex and I have been separated since January 2010. Shortly after separation, she filed for Custody and Child support of our two children. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the separation (my ex was at fault, but the judge didn’t care) she was awarded temporary child custody. Child support amount was never determined or ordered.

For the next almost two years (up until now), even though there was no child support order in place, I paid what I could afford. I was left with the entirety of the marital debt, so what I was able to provide my ex was not as much as I would have liked, but it was something.

We just had a Permanent Custody and Child Support hearing in which my ex was awarded both custody and child support. I was also ordered to pay back-child support because the judge felt that the amount I paid to the mom in the past was inadequate. Additionaly, my ex had also gotten remarried two weeks before the hearing, for which the judge applauded her.

The judge decided my child support payments, based on mine and my ex-wife’s incomes, should be 50% of my net pay. If I pay that amount, I will not have enough funds left to cover my basic needs (rent, car payment, insurance, gas, groceries, etc.), and even though I presented facts to the judge that this would cause me extreme financial hardship and would interfere with my relationship with our children (I incur $300 in gas expenses alone each month when going to pick the children up at the beginning and end of my visitation time because I moved away) and would impact the care I could provide for my sons when they were with me, she did not care. Her exact words were “I’m just a calculator.” She has also ordered me to pay half of my ex’s attorney’s fees within 120 days (It’s an additional $5K on top of the child support amount), and when I asked how I’m supposed to do that, the judge told me to open up a new credit card. The judge is aware that my credit rating is ruined because our marital property has gone into foreclosure, and that I won’t be able to get a credit card, but the judge has made it clear that is not her problem.

Regardless of the evidence I’ve presented throughout the course of the Custody battle that should have shifted the tide in my favor, my ex and I have had the same judge preside over the case, and without exception, the judge has ALWAYS ruled in the favor of my ex. For example, when I filed to find my ex in clear violation of our TPA that stated “No overnight guests of opposite sex” because she and the children moved in with her then-boyfriend, the same judge dismissed it and said “I would never put that kind of a stipulation in the TPA.” She didn’t-- That stipulation was something that I sought and was able to get added into the TPA to protect our children from my ex’s many paramours, the evidence of which I also presented in past court appearances, but were all dismissed by the same judge.

I haven’t been able to afford an attorney for a while now, but I certainly can’t continue to pay that amount for the next 15 years. I have considered picking up a second job again, but if I do that, my child support amount will be re-calculated to include that new income. Last time I worked two jobs, the same judge ordered me to pay the entirety of our marital debt because “I could afford it with my two incomes.” I’ve been caught in this vicious cycle for the past two years that I don’t know how to get out of, and was hoping you could explain what options I have available to me.

If you are considering an appeal, then you will certainly need the assistance of an attorney. I would suggest arranging a consultation with one to get you started as soon as possible. In the meantime, you will need to stay current with your support obligations, because you don’t want to be held responsible for arrears later. You have an ongoing responsibility to pay what the court ordered, until such time as the order is modified or appealed. Good luck to you.