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Bad Tactics in RI Child Support Hearing

I was in Family Court yesterday representing a parent who was seeking to reduce his child support because his income had diminished. He had earned $75,000/year working 40 hours per week at a marina; a year before, his co-worker left and his employer increased his hours from 40 to 80 hours without an increase in pay. He was unable to spend time with his son. This parent left his job but found another job with an employer who provided more security, health insurance, a retirement plan though the gross income was $45,000/year.

While in Court, I met with the opposing attorney to try to negoiate a reduced child support based upon the Guidelines. We then met with the Judge. We discussed the loss of his job. We also discussed that my client had sold a house almost 2 years with a gain and that he bought another house and had listed an apartment over his garage for summer rental; there are no rentals yet, just an expectation. These are two issues where the two parties can differ in opinion. At the conference, the Judge agreed with the request of the other attorney for a continuance so he could prepare. All we needed to do was get a new date from the clerk.

Everything is okay so far. A new date; speak to my client and leave.

Now the opposing attorney tells me that he wants to put something on the record.  We wait for more than an hour, sitting around doing nothing, billing our respective clients. He wants to put "a show" on for his client.

We get called as a "formal" matter close to 12:30 when the court is ready for its break. The other attorney then speaks, very emotionally, for almost 10 minutes, arguing his client's case, spouting about the rental properties, my client's DR-6 and his client being the poor innocent soul. The Judge sat silently and took no notes.

As a lawyer, I remind the Judge that everything the other attorney just said is argument and right now, inconsequential. The Judge agreed that he will make his decision only after a hearing when evidence is presented instead of this lawyer's argument. This 10 minute show cost each client more than an hour of lawyer's fees. If he asks for an award of fees for his client, the Judge will be reminded of the extra unnecessary time expended for a show for his client.

More importantly, any possible negotiations have been jeopardized. My client is now unwilling to be cooperative after being accused of being a liar, cheat and horrible person.

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