Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In Re Marriage of La Moure (Cal. Ct. App. - August 25, 2011)

I'm not especially interested in the legal issue here, which involves the appropriate level of notice one has to give when levying on an IRA account.  But I was struck by the facts of the case.  Which are not unusual but nonetheless caught my eye.

The parties were married for ten years.  Not unusual.  Two kids.  Average.  Got divorced.  Happens.  The marriage was presumably troubled; upon filing the dissolution action, the court ordered the mother to enter immediately a residential alcohol treatment program, and also ordered the father to attend anger management classes.  Custody was shared 50/50.  Those orders may give some insight into the parties.

Father's an attorney:  a sole practitioner.  He's ordered to pay $4000 in monthly child support and $3500 a month in spousal support.  That seems incredibly high to me, particularly given shared custody.  Ninety thousand a year?

Of course, it's entirely possible that a sole practitioner in San Bernadino would make the several hundred thousand dollars a year that would justify such an award.  But I don't imagine that's all that common.  Still, I assume the court got it right.  I was just surprised.

I was also surprised at how the attorney responded to these orders.  Was a suprised that he repeatedly filed motions to modify or reduce this amount?  No.  Not at all.  He's a lawyer.  We often focus on our own cases -- potentially to our detriment.  So that's not shocking.

What is surprising, however, is that he repeatedly doesn't pay this support.  During the same year he filed for dissolution he's already $14,000 behind, and ordered to pay.  The next year the court enters another order for him to pay arrears -- this time, over $21,000.  Then, a couple years later, another order to pay $4000 in overdue support, and later that year, another $30,000.  All of which leads to the contested levy of his IRA.

Is it surprising to me that someone doesn't pay support?  Of course not.  Happens all the time.  Is it slightly more surprising when that person's an attorney?  Yes.  You'd think they'd know better.  That such an approach to support obligations is more than a little counterproductive.  And that the consequences of such an attitude includes the suspension of your Bar license.  Which, a little research reveals, is precisely what eventually happened to Father.

Family law.  It's a crazy field.