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Experts Commit Fraud on Court
Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins

Question: My husband and I were divorced three years ago in a very bitter case. Our older child was in college at the time. I lost custody of our younger child, then age 11, mostly on the strength of a psychologist appointed as a “neutral evaluator” by the Court, who testified that I was mentally ill. I was required to pay child support that, because I was unemployed, caused me to use my alimony and deplete my assets. Finally, when my ex-husband remarried, my son came to live with me. Surprisingly, my “mental illness” was not relevant three years after the fact. My son brought his clothing and personal effects, including a computer my ex-husband had given him.

While helping my son with his homework, I noticed some files in a separate folder, which I opened. To my great surprise, there were 17 e-mails exchanged among my husband, his lawyer, and the psychologist. It turns out that my husband’s lawyer did not disclose that he had represented the psychologist in a personal matter dealing with his license, and the three of them were planning how I was going to be portrayed as “mentally ill.” And it turns out that although the psychologist was supposed to charge both my ex and me an equal share of his fee, my ex was never charged.

I feel that I was rooked by these three. But my lawyer says that since more than a year has passed, there is nothing I can do. I have been devastated both personally and financially. Do I have any recourse?

Answer: While reopening judgments is very difficult in most instances, what you describe here may constitute a fraud on the Court that may well have undermined its honor and integrity because 1) the psychologist appointed by the Court was supposed to be a “neutral evaluator” and 2) not only your former husband, but also his attorney, who was an officer of the Court, were involved in what appears to be a fraud on the Court itself.

The purpose of the court system is to make impartial decisions on cases brought before it. Where, as apparently exists here, the actions of individuals trusted by the Court – the psychologist as a Court-appointed neutral and your husband’s lawyer as an officer of the Court – pollute and taint the Court, it may well be that your judgment could be reopened based upon extrinsic fraud, that is, fraud against which you could not have guarded against and could not have defended against.

In our view, the deliberate scheme you describe should not be tolerated by the Court because it prevented you from presenting your full case.

Question: I am thinking about getting a divorce, and have read three books on the topic. I am concerned because some of these books contradict the others in important ways. I have been interviewing lawyers and, unfortunately I get the same feeling about them. I am very uncomfortable making a decision about whom to hire and which book to follow. Do you have any suggestions that might help me?

Answer: Most of the more than 2.3 million people who divorce each year enter the process less prepared than you. We believe that if you are thinking about divorce or separation, you must prepare yourself in an effort to maintain control of your life. You should learn how to deal with the divorce process in an informed way so that you can ask the right questions. While the legal aspects of custody, visitation, fault, property division, alimony, and child support may vary from state to state, you have probably read enough to create a roadmap that will help you. Still, there is no way to micromanage a process that can become as involved as the participants choose to make it. See for some free suggestions and tips.

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