Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jackson County, MO, court to confiscate and destroy cell phones

The court security folks in the Jackson County, Missouri courts have a new rule that you need to know about if you have a court date either in Independence or Kansas City.

If you take your cell phone to the courthouse with you, the security personnel will confiscate your phone AND DESTROY IT. Yup, that's right. The word from the sheriff's department folks is that you WILL NOT have your phone returned to you. If it is confiscated at the door of the courthouse, THEY WILL DESTROY IT along with all other banned or prohibited items.

The sheriff won't say when the rule comes into effect - but the boxes are at the security stations now. In fact, all you lawyers who don't have current Kansas City Missouri bar cards - your phones are getting confiscated and destroyed too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Order of Protection - an example of how they start

I have recently been seeing many exparte orders filed right before or along with the divorce filing -- especially when the parties have one or more child. It's truly saddening.

Here's a rather typical scenario: John and Mary decide to divorce. Mary wants the house and kids. Mary and John have an argument. Mary calls the cops. Mary says she's scared. John says he didn't do anything. The police officer tells John he needs to leave for the night.

Next day: John comes home. Mary doesn't want him there. She drives up to the local courthouse and files an ex parte petition asking the court to keep John out of the house because she says she needs to be protected from him. She also asks the court to give her custody of the children, child support from John, possession of the house even though she wants John to continue to pay the mortgage. She even asks the court to order John into counseling.

When John arrives home after having been asked to spend the night elsewhere by the police, should he pack his clothes up and put them in his pick up truck? Should he pack up his shaving kit, his hunting rifle and his tools and put them in his pick up truck?

There is a knock at the door. The police have come to serve John with the ex parte order. John answers the door - Mary is still not home. The police serve John the order and tell John to leave the house immediately. If he's lucky, they will allow him to pull together a few things (e.g. underwear and socks) to take with him (the hunting rifle won't be one of the things the police will allow John to take). If he's not so lucky to be allowed to collect socks and underwear, the police will just tell him to leave.

Once the police serve the ex parte order and escort John from the home, he won't be able to come back until the court says he can come back. He won't be able to get any of his personal belongings until the court says he can get them.

Perhaps even more important than socks and underwear, John won't be able to see his kids until the court says he can see his kids.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Missouri case access site back up after fire

CaseNet is now back up and running. Good job to the court administrator. We all rely on you guys.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Missouri shutters the Fair Share program - no more help for parents struggling with child support

Effective July 1, 2009, Missouri is cancelling the Fair Share program. This was the program that helped parents who had lost their jobs to find a way to continue paying child support. Without Fair Share, a father who has lost his job and is more than $10,000.00 behind in child support is left with no safety net. Even if he finds a job, he will still be left vulnerable to prosecution.

When I contacted a representative from Missouri's child support enforcement agency to discuss options for parents who are behind in their child support, I was told the only option is the career center through the state, but that working with the career center will not prevent prosecutions.

The closing of the Fair Share program means that either Missouri is going to turn a blind eye to dads who are not paying their child support or Missouri is going to renew its efforts to prosecute dads who are behind on their child support. Neither of those alternatives is a good one.

In the first alternative, the children of this state are going to be without the support their noncustodial parent could provide if he were able to find employment. In the second alternative, not only do the children lose - but the state will be exchanging the cost of social workers for the higher cost of prosecutors and judges. That doesn't seem like a good trade off to me.

If you agree and would like to express your opinion to the child support enforcement office or to the director of social services, here is a link to their telephone numbers.