This post is one in a series of how I wound up having virtually no access to my son despite the fact that I am a good dad, have a good job, have no criminal record and have no alcohol offenses. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on attorneys fees and was hit with a $15,000 judgment just because I fought for my right to see my son on holidays and summer break and spring break. I’ve nearly spent myself into bankruptcy and can no longer afford to pay money into this broken family courts system. And though it is embarrassing to write this in such a public forum, I love my son and I’m certain this is happening to thousands of other single fathers and mothers across the country. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. It’s time to shed a light on this craziness that is tearing families apart.
I lawyered up a few weeks after the ex’s attorney conned me into signing a disastrous Rule 11 agreement that gave me no significant access to my kiddo, basically making me his glorified babysitter.
The plan of my newly hired attorney was to have me revoke my consent on the Rule 11 agreement because it was signed by an associate judge – not a district judge. So we did just that. And in a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes, the same judge who signed the Rule 11 agreement wound up granting my motion to revoke consent.
Afterward, my attorney and the ex’s attorney talked for about a minute to see if there was any common ground. We wanted expanded standard. The ex wanted me out of the kiddo’s life and her attorney even offered to not make me pay child support if I would keep the Rule 11 agreement. I basically told him what he could do with his Rule 11.
The ex was livid.
I thought I was home free, thought me and my attorney would now start preparing for a real child custody hearing in which it’d be a slam dunk for me to get expanded standard possession of the kiddo. Afterall, I had a full-time job, had been paying child support, had no criminal record or DUIs, and, most of all, loved my kiddo and had been a willing participant in his life from Day 1.
But the ex, funded by her mother who has goo-gobs of cash, ordered her attorney to go scorched earth on me. They sued me for breach of contract, alleging that my lawful revocation of consent on the Rule 11 agreement caused the ex harm. They were also asking me to pay the ex’s attorney’s fees: a whopping $15,000.
A few weeks later, in October 2014, a judge heard arguments on the breach of contract case. The ex’s attorney contended that I was in my right mind when I signed the agreement and that it was a fair deal. He said this with a straight face. We argued that even though I signed the deal, I did it under duress, and that I did not understand everything I was giving up. We argued that how could a contract be placed on a kid? He isn’t a car or a piece of property.
We also argued, most importantly, that this agreement was not in the kiddo’s best interest. With this agreement, the kiddo would never have lawful access to me on holidays, spring breaks, full summers, and full weekends.
This was a Friday. It took the judge until Tuesday to decide. And his decision was devastating.
My attorney “Rxxxx” wrote me a short note informing me of the the judge’s verdict and forwarded me his decision, below. I blacked out the names of both attorneys and the judge, though I may reveal their identities at a later date:
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Subject: FW: D-1-FM-14-xxxxx ITIO xxxxxxx xxxxx Lyons
To: “Kevin Lyons”
Attached is his ruling. As you can see we were not successful and the agreement stands. We will have to see if we can arrive at terms for the weekend start time and holidays since he cannot add those terms.
I will call you in the morning and will also speak to xxxx. We can at least make sure you start seeing xxxx again ASAP.
I am sorry we did not get the outcome we were hoping for.
Having read and re-read the documents provided, and having considered the testimony and argument of counsel, I have found the following:
1) The Rule 11 agreement was revoked prior to rendition and cannot form the basis of an agreed judgment.
2) The Rule 11 is a valid contract under Texas contract law and is not unconscionable, either procedurally or substanitively.
3) This agreement will constitute the Court’s order; meaning, the Court cannot add, subtract, or edit the agreement.
4) The Respondent is awarded attorney fees in the amount testified to by Respondent’s counsel.
Respondent’s counsel should prepare an order reflecting these findings. Since the agreement is unclear on Petitioner’s weekends and Respondent’s school holidays possession, it would be beneficial if an agreement could be arrived at by the parties. If not, a motion to modify may be required. Thank you for an ably presented case.
As you can see in the last paragraph, even the judge “Jxxxx” was unclear about how holiday possession was supposed to be split between the ex and myself. But the ramification of his ruling was very clear: Not only was I stuck with an order that let me only have 32 hours every two weeks with my kiddo, that stuck me with no holiday or spring break possession, and with virtually no extended summer break with the kiddo, I was also ordered to pay the ex’s attorney $15,000.
Can you believe that? Because I fought for the right to see my kiddo, I was hit with a $15,000 judgment, this was on top of child support and the monthly payroll deductions to have the kiddo on my insurance policy. To this day, I have not paid one cent of the $15,000, and have brought on the wrath of the ex’s attorney, who has used that judgment to freeze two of my bank accounts in an attempt to collect.
I wound up splitting with my attorney a few months later and hired another attorney in May 2015 as I sought to modify the current order.
But my troubles were far from over.