Q What recourse does a longtime California resident have after being framed in another state's court on a divorce? I was also represented by an obviously incompetent attorney.
My wife lives in another state. We married in that state with the understanding that I would move to her house when I retired in four years. I invested $25,000 in the house with the agreement that I would own half of it. She then filed for divorce.
I found a four-person law office that said it was experienced in handling divorces in that state. The first lawyer they assigned to me told me I was her first case. Halfway through the case, she quit. The general partner made it clear that he wanted to get rid of me and threw me to the wolves.
The judge gave everything to my wife, including my deceased wife's jewelry and art treasures that I had moved into her house. What can I do? I don't want to sue for malpractice, as it would only bring more anguish and mean having to deal with another lawyer.
A. Your letter does not mention in which state your divorce occurred. Every state has its own laws and procedures by which it handles domestic matters. You would have to check that state's laws to determine what remedy you may have to change the property settlement terms of your divorce.
I can understand your reluctance to hire another attorney, but you should consult one to assist you in the other state if you do decide to try to change the property settlement.
As for your feeling that your lawyers failed to adequately represent you, any recourse you may have there would again depend upon that state's laws. You may wish to check with that state's Bar Assn. for information in this area.
Q. I have been paying child support for my teen-age son. He is in high school but will be turning 18 in a few weeks. I have remarried, and my new wife and I have a baby of our own. My new family could use the money that I send for child support. Am I still on the hook even after he turns 18?
A. You are obligated to pay child support for your son even though he is 18 years old if he is unmarried, lives with a parent and is a full-time high school student. Your obligation would stop when he completes the 12th grade or turns 19, whichever happens first.
You can, however, ask the court to change the amount of the child support you are paying. There is a way to do this without having to be represented by an attorney. Contact the Orange County Superior Court for the necessary forms and instruction sheet.
Q. I got a ticket in a shopping mall parking lot for speeding from the local police. I didn't think they could give tickets on private property. Can they do this?
A. A city may pass an ordinance that would allow police to ticket people for violations such as speeding. Before the police can give tickets, however, the owner of the property must post signs that say the parking lot is subject to public traffic rules.
B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life. Got a question for Judge Nomoto? Write to: Ask the Judge, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Questions of broadest interest will be answered in her column.