Tag Archives: legal fees

A MOTHER’S LAMENT, by B. R. Hardin, Attorney, Father, and Grandfather

(The following is a letter written by a mother who lost custody of her two children, reminiscing of the times they spent together, their life in Ocean Springs.  Because her ex-husband could afford the children a larger home, and her inability to recover from her loss when Katrina swept the gulf coast, she lost custody of her children, and was limited to visits on an every other weekend basis, but only to the tri-county area of Rankin, Madison and Hinds, and no over night visitation, I suppose for fear she would remove the children from the jurisdiction of the court.  She spent her life’s savings, over $45,000 dollars in attorney fees and the fees of Guardian Ad :Litems appointed by the court to investigate and report their findings to the court for the purpose of assisting the court in determining the best interest of the children and which parent would be more suitable for their care.  The first Guardian Ad Litem gave her a favorable report and recommended to the Court that the children be placed in her custody, but the second Guardian Ad Litem, for some reason, chose her ex-husband over her, and the Court favored this last report and her ex-husband one out, mainly because, in her opinions, he had a large, lovely home in Madison County and had the funds to raise the children, whereas, due to her circumstances, she did not.  That was seven years ago and she has been fighting to recover their custody since that time.  This is a lament of her efforts and the pain that she has suffered in that pursuit. It is addressed to a dear friend and to her older daughter by a previous marriage.   It begins with the ending of one of her visits with her young, twelve year old daughter.)

“Tonight, as I drove Miranda back to Madison, stroking her hair as her head lay over the armrest, stretching toward me as close as her seatbelt would allow like she always does on those drives ‘after the visit is over’, I vowed to begin writing, again.  It is one of a few passions of mine for which I have slowly turned away from.  My other favorites were put away much more abruptly.  My present demeanor may be disheveled, at times, but my memory is as sharp as a tack, like it has always been.  I recount my life events by dates, sometimes even down to the hour and minute, of ‘before’ and ‘after’ events.  Fishing, which always included some form of beach walking and nature exploration (which meant cardio exercise and fresh air as a bonus), ended the last time I went with my youngest daughter Miranda.  I haven’t allowed myself to recreate that particular memory down to the time and date, but I know it was with her, and I know that it ended as abruptly as the day we were separated by a court order that wrenched us apart in November 28th, 2011.  Listening to music, especially bayou-zydeco and country-western, old gospel hymns, and really old country ho-down music that I was tickled to hear my kids sing to as well.  I had amassed quite of collection of downloads, cd’s, and 2 great stereo’s that I wired together … my talent for setting up surround-sound and wiring “outdoor” speakers in nooks and crannies along the outside of our home was acknowledged and admired by even the most manly men of neighbors and teenaged boys with jack-up trucks and booming sound systems (my kids were quite proud of their mom’s sound-wiring skills), and every night, summer, spring, winter or fall, we enjoyed sitting outside by a fire …. for just a few minutes to a few hours, listening to, and singing along to “our” songs.  We always seemed to have extra’s, company, whether invited or not … the kids friends, their friends of friends, their parents, our neighbors…. somehow, our music and outside supper’s became an international “welcome” sign in our yard and drew wanderer’s in like magnets.  The kids loved it and I never minded.  It was a peaceful, simple time and I take some comfort knowing with all certainty that I made mental notes all of the time to “stop, and ENJOY them”.  I am grateful for that.  My love of music listening, as well as my infamous “singalongs” was severely restricted after my 12 year old son, Philip, went missing, or, for a better term, was “parentally abducted and never returned”, June 4, 2010.  I continued to enjoy some music with my young daughter, Miranda, after that date, but it was limited to music that would NOT remind me of Philip.  It was difficult, but I made it work for the next 17 months, and Miranda and I found our “own” music that we belted out every day.  The music ended completely, November 28, 2011, the date my daughter was taken from me as well.  I have not been able to bring myself to listen, or sing, since then.  The world became very dark, and very quiet, and remains that way.  Music brought me great joy.  Yard work, and gardening, of which I spent a great deal of time enjoying in all seasons and was quite talented in and for which I took great pride in, ended when I boxed up my belongings with the help of my oldest daughter Jessica, this past April 2012 when the decision was made to end the burdensome, tiring 5 months of travel that had been unavoidable since the day Miranda and I were separated and she was ordered to live with her father in Madison Mississippi.  I struggled valiantly to keep up our home in Ocean Springs, waiting day to day, week to week, turning into month to month, chasing the “15-day reversal of opinion” I’d been assured was certain to happen due to the many errors and fraudulent claims made in court that led to the removal of both of my minor children, Philip and Miranda, from my lifelong care and into the care of their father.  As the days and weeks turned into months, and the certain “presentation of the real facts” and the “testimony of real witnesses that would at the very least show his contempt of court and have the judge make good on his promise to reverse his opinion and return the children to me failed to come forward, and with these failures, my dreams for keeping our home, our very lives as we knew it, began to dissipate.  In addition to the near-weekly frantic drives I made those first few months to Jackson to be near my youngest child due to her very real, very serious medical, emotional, and/or legal emergencies surrounding our case, it slowly became clear to me that I could not continue to “stay home” and keep house while driving to and fro.175 miles each way.  Looking back, that is one of several things that astound me… that I even managed to hang on to the dream for as long as I did. Yes, the gardening was a great loss to my spirit and my body… but, the real joy in it ended the same time the music ended, November 2011.  I continued to manicure my lawn, and fret over it’s condition after my daughters disappearance from our home in November 2011, but my heart was no longer in it and I gave it up completely when I boxed up our life and closed the door for good in early April 2012.  Crocheting, which I recently picked back up due to the odd timing of a double urging and suggestion of two important people in my life who have never even met one another, yet who each brought up the topic within the same 24 hour period leading up to this past Christmas Eve.  The urging was by a friend who coaxed me into attending a small Christmas gathering at her home the night before Christmas Eve, and the suggestion was made by my oldest daughter, Jessica, who mused about my ability to “create” the newest craze of baby beanie hats that is so popular and in demand among all her co-workers and friends.  I have been a longtime believer of there-is-no-such-thing-as-coincidence so I paid heed to the sign before me and picked up my crochet needle, junk yarn from the back of my truck, and, with some help from Google, proceeded to crochet intently throughout this very difficult time of year… Christmas without my children.  Christmas without my closest friends.  Christmas away from home.  Homesick, Heartsick, and … Christmas without my children.  Thank you, Arlette, and Thank You, Jessica.  Your blessing and gift to me put an idea and a desire in my mind that thankfully I did not turn away from.  It helped me survive the most hearbreaking Christmas of my life.  Little Blessings…. count them one by one:)”

Me (A Mother, Still, In Mississippi)

 

 

 

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Is Justice truly blind – written by Mississippi Attorney (2012)

Is Justice truly blind.  Or, as someone told me recently, at least in their case, justice is blind only if you can afford it.  Take the O. J. Simpson case, they said.  Do you believe that he would have been acquitted if he had been an average citizen, living from paycheck to paycheck, rather than Simpson, who was apparently wealthy enough to hire several expensive attorneys, pay for pretrial depositions and pay for expert witnesses?

Food for thought.  After over fifty years of practice, I can see where he’s coming from.  There have been numerous cases during my career where the poor litigant was unable to hire an expensive attorney, much less fight a lengthy court battle.  The Mississippi State Bar is doing its best to get attorneys to perform pro bono service.  That is to render free service to those litigants who are unable to employ private counsel.  Like many of my fellow attorneys, I have done my share of these.  And in those situations where I have asked for a small down payment, I have found that the remainder of my fee remains unpaid.  In fact, I’ve often said that if I could collect my account receivables I could have retired long ago. I’m sure many of my colleagues can say the same.

I know of one litigant, in this case a woman, who lost custody of her children, who has spent over $45,000 in attorney fees and court appointed Guardian Ad Litem fees in her attempt to regain custody of her children, and still faces more fees if she intends to pursue her quest.  Incidentally, Guardian Ad Litems are usually appointed by a Judge as an arm of the court, charged to assist the Court in determining the best interest of the children.  Their responsibility is to investigate, file a report, and testify to the results of their investigation and, if requested by the Judge, to make a recommendation as to the best interest of the children.  These GAL’s are usually an attorney also, and their charges can be an added burden on the poor litigant.

This woman is obviously not a paycheck to paycheck type individual, but she has spent her life’s savings in her quest to correct what she feels has been an injustice by the judicial system in removing her children from her care and imposing restricted visitation rights.  At present she has been unable to meet the financial demands that the Court has placed upon her and faces contempt of court charges that could result in her incarceration.  But like most mothers throughout this land she is not giving up in her battle and will no doubt wind up in jail for her continued efforts.

She is only one of many women that I know that continue to fight for her rights.  I know of at least one of these who was actually incarcerated by the Court before she eventually regain custody of her children.

I’m sure there are hundreds out there, both men and women, who have faced the same dilemma.

Yes, Litigation is expensive.  Lawyers are expensive.  GAL’s are expensive.  If witnesses are called, especially psychologist or psychiatrist, they are also expensive.  Can the average citizen afford all of this?  Not likely, unless they have savings or good credit.

So what is the answer?  I don’t know.  I’m an attorney.  I have done my share of pro bono (free) work.  And there are other attorneys who likewise have done quite a bit pro bono work. But even if an attorney performs pro bono work the litigant still faces the task of the GAL fees, expert witness fees, etc.

Perhaps this is a matter that should be investigated by the legislature.  Especially in the case of GALs.  Unfortunately, there are no set rules or guidelines in our present laws addressing all of the duties and understandings of these court appointed attorneys.

The Supreme Court has attempted to clarify some of the issues, but there are still other matters that need to be addressed.

If there are those enlightened minds out there that has a workable solution to this problem please let me know.  Or if you have been in similar circumstances, tell me your story.