Life. Man, what a crazy thing it can be.
If I had gone to a psychic last year and they told me that in the first week of 2019, I would be calling a lawyer in Texas for representation in a paternity/child support case against me, I would have a) laughed my ass off and b) told them they are full of it.
Yesterday I was doing just that. I. Am. Not. Kidding.
But first a little background.
Cue up instrumental version of “Summer Samba (So Nice)”
On October 12, 2018, literally just three days after Ann’s nephrectomy, there was a knock on my door. I walked to the door and answered to some guy standing there with a folder bursting with papers.
“David Moreno?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
He identified himself as a Los Angeles County process server who was there to serve me with papers for a case in Texas – a child support case. Where do I even start with this?
“Nope. Wrong guy,” I told him. I have never been to Texas. I have no business dealings in Texas, no owned property, absolutely nothing to tie me to the Lone Star State. And I sure as eff don’t have any other children let alone Texas children. I may know some people there but they are pretty distant and that’s about it. The closest I’ve ever been to Texas may have been when I flew over it en route to Arkansas in 1993 while working for Walmart.
He was confused. He had the right address, the right name and the same birthday as me but ah, the photo he had of his intended recipient was definitely not me.
“Look at that guy. Does he look like me? Come on, now. I’m much better looking than that dude anyhow.” He laughed.
After deciding I wasn’t the guy he was looking for, I told him to take a picture of me and my CDL for whomever – his boss or the attorneys – so that they knew I was not the deadbeat dad. I also took a picture of his process server ID for my own good because he wouldn’t let me look at the paperwork because, technically, they didn’t pertain to me. (I’d later find out that that was a smart, smart move on my behalf.)
Once convinced, he went on his merry way without leaving me any information. Then I had to go back in the house to Ann what the hell just happened.
“Umm…you have some major explaining to do, mister,” she joked. Not bad for a woman who had three organs removed three days prior. And after we got a good laugh out of it, we simply forgot any of it happened.
That was until January 8, 2019 when this letter came in the mail.
Yeeeaaaaaahhh. Shit just got real serious.
I had no idea what this was or what to do next. Fortunately, an old schoolmate is an attorney here in California so I contacted him about this. He gave me some invaluable information and advice on what actions to take in order to clear this up, the first of which was to contact the Texas Attorney General’s office and see what they say.
That’s exactly what I did. They were of absolutely no help. To back up this claim, they wanted me to fax my photo and other information over the Locate Department which I can only assume with that name is the department responsible for tracking down these idiots and gathering their information. I wouldn’t know. I’m not a loser and am not familiar enough with law enforcement at this level or child support proceedings.
“Wait. You want me to fax these things?” I said in a phone call to one of the clerks. “No really, a fax? That’s antiquated technology and this is a matter of identifying someone based on the image they send you. You serio — a FAX?”
But they insisted. I was livid and refused.
And I had every right to be angry. Failure to pay child support is a big honking deal that could lead to wage garnishment, driver’s license suspension, and even jail time. And if I didn’t clear this up or failed to appear by the hearing date of January 23, this would make me “father by default” and start the wage garnishment process – up to 20% of my total paycheck. In short, I did not need to get fucked around with this.
“No no no. I’m not doing that. I want you to give me an email of someone there who will handle this and I want it now.”
The clerk put me on hold – this was only one of many calls I made to the AG’s office on Tuesday – so she could get the address for me. She returned and provided me with it.
She sounded old, like working-there-since-The-Alamo old. And if there’s one thing I know about old people, it’s that most of them are technologically illiterate. So when she gave me the email address, I had her repeat it to me so that I could confirm it.
I then wrote up a few things, scanned the documents they wanted, attached them all to an email and sent them to whomever this address belongs to.
“It’s going to bounce back to me. It’s going to bounce back to me.”
Five minutes later I get the “Undeliverable mail” notification. I wanted to punch something. Of course now had no choice but to fax everything from Ann’s office.
But before that, I had to start looking up family law attorneys in Texas. For fuck’s sake, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW?
I called a few and one that was eager to take the case. The cost for just the consultation: $500. Errr, I don’t have that so thank you, goodbye. I realize I needed an attorney but I just couldn’t afford this. I didn’t even want to know what his hourly rate was.
In between calling people and getting things ready, Ann and I discussed this and were both in a shambles. When something like this is thrust upon you and you have no idea on how to handle it but know what the ramifications are, it is just overwhelming. Then there’s the two-week time frame in which I needed to get all of this done. It was all too much and I honestly thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown at one point last night.
But I pulled myself together and did what I needed to do. The last thing we did that night was go to Ann’s office to fax the forms over to the AG’s office. After that, I told her I needed to make a stop at the am/pm for some of their crappy, not-good-for-you hamburgers because when stressed, horrible food comforts me. Excessive amounts of horrible food I might add, and the cheeseburger and chicken sandwich did the trick.
This morning the calls continued. One the calls was to a prepaid legal service my employer offers but they couldn’t help me Tuesday because they needed to verify my eligibility. Today they did just that and after explaining my situation, emailed me a list of attorneys in both California and Texas.
Most of them were busy and one was a flat-out sassy, fresh-off-the-Bar hotshot bitch of a person. I hung up once she sassed me. This is not how you handle potential clients, lady. Your Yelp rating is gonna suck.
After calling nearly half of them, I finally got a guy who was the most down-to-earth of them all. He was familiar with cases like mine, been practicing since the mid-80s, and just a good guy to talk to. Before I even agreed to anything, he was on the computer looking up the case for more information. My search was over.
He told me what he needed to do and gave me his price. From the previous calls I had made, he was the most inexpensive of them all but I still couldn’t pay him until Friday. I made him aware and he was okay with that but once I paid him, the ball would get rolling.(Because this is an ongoing case, I’m not expanding on our conversation.)
Now here’s where things get even more funky. Once I realized what was going on, I immediately thought I was the victim of identity theft. They had my SSN, address, and date of birth so it sure seemed like that was the case. So I went to Credit Karma to check for any recent activity, namely those which could be suspicious.
There was nothing unusual. I was aware of all of the activity in my name and there was nothing in Texas.
Taking all of that as well as the level of incompetence at the AG’s office into consideration, I can only come to the conclusion that this was a clerical error. If they have a database of people named David Moreno and you have some yahoo college intern who has worked too many hours, too eager to please or hasn’t had their morning cup of coffee, the chances of them grabbing the wrong info from a row of an Excel chart (if they are using an Excel database) are exponentially greater. Why else would they have my SSN, address, and DOB but a picture of some other guy, right? I don’t know for sure but it seems that way.
Besides, my attorney (that still sounds weird) said that the middle initial of the guy on the court papers is C. Mine is A. Ruh-roh, Raggy!
And if that’s the case I’ve had to miss a day of work, been stressed out, sought legal representation, drove to Ann’s office to fax documents, and overall have had just a shitty few days because some fool entered the wrong information for the case. I’m going to see what my attorney says and if confirmed, ask if there’s any way I can get some kind of recourse for a mistake they made. It shouldn’t have gone this far and they’ve made my life hell so paying me back for their stupidity seems like the right thing to do.
I will keep you posted on any new developments because it’s not quite over yet. And note that this is the truncated version of what happened.
So. How was your day?