Q. I am in desperate need of help. My husband was married before and has a child from that marriage. He is both a U.S. and Pakistani citizen. After his divorce, during visitation, he kidnaped the child and went to Pakistan. He was later caught and brought back to the United States, where he was convicted of kidnaping.
My husband is now planning to divorce me. We have a 3-year-old child from our marriage. The child and I are now living in California. The divorce action is being handled in Chicago, where I used to live with him.
The Chicago court has given me custody of our child. It has also granted six months of supervised visitation to my husband with the condition that after six months, a California court could decide visitation. This was the only thing the court decided because our lawyers were to work out an arrangement on everything else dealing with the divorce.
My lawyer now tells me my husband does not want to go through with any arrangement and that I must go to Chicago for a hearing. It is an extreme financial hardship for me to return, although I am terrified that my husband may try to get the supervised visitation changed. I want the case heard in California. Is this possible?
N.P., Santa Ana
A. From your letter, it appears that your divorce is still not resolved. If this is the case, your attorney is correct that you would have to return to Chicago to complete that proceeding.
This may not necessarily be true with regard to visitation of the child because, as your letter indicates, the Chicago court order provides that California is to decide visitation rights after six months.
The law, however, is very complex in this area, and you should consult with your attorney and/or a California lawyer for advice. This would be particularly advisable in light of your fear for the child's safety.
Q. I'm ashamed to admit this, but for many years I have had a drug problem. It took my girlfriend's getting pregnant to finally make me realize that I had to straighten up. My girlfriend and I are now married, and the baby means everything to me.
I have a steady job now, and am really trying to make up for my past mistakes. Unfortunately, there is a judgment against me which has not been paid off. The creditor is now taking money from my paycheck to pay off this judgment. I can hardly make ends meet. A friend told me that I can go to court and stop him from taking the money from my check. Is this true?
A. Your friend is thinking of a procedure called claim of exemption. A claim of exemption is filed by a judgment debtor so that some or all of his earnings can be exempted from garnishment (taken by a judgment creditor to satisfy his judgment).
The standard amount that is normally exempted from garnishment is 25% of your disposable earnings. However, all of the earnings of a debtor can be exempted if they are needed to support the debtor or his/her family. This is not true, however, if the debt arose from a support order, for taxes, or for common necessities of life such as medical expenses and food bills.
You do not mention the basis for the judgment against you so I cannot tell you for what exemption, if any, you qualify. You should contact the clerk's office in the court that issued the judgment to obtain the necessary forms for applying for a claim of exemption. Your claim will be heard by a judge.
Q. I am a 10-year-old girl, and I want to be a judge when I grow up. Do I have to be a lawyer first? My mother says they are all crooks.
A.C., Costa Mesa
A. You must be a lawyer before you can be a judge in California. A municipal court judge must be a lawyer for at least five years and a superior court judge must be one for at least 10 years.
I hope you will become a judge. Don't worry . . . being a lawyer doesn't mean that you are a crook.