I will try to make this as succinct as possible. My child's father and I share joint custody of our four year old son, both legal and physical, and have been in and out of court for the past 3 years going back and forth about everything from where he goes to pre-school to whether I am allowed to publicly refer to him by his nickname, instead of his legal name. We were never married, and from the beginning, I have been the defendant in everything. The Judge ordered us to see a Co-Parenting Therapist for 8 sessions (we have one remaining,) to hire a Parenting Coordinator (one has just been appointed,) and for our son to be in therapy until after he starts Kindergarten. My child's father makes over three times as much money as I do, and for the most part, the medical expenses have been a 33/77% pro-rata split. She also ordered for me to pay the first $250 of un-reimbursed medical expenses per calendar year because our son is covered under his father's insurance. We are supposed to alternate who gets to claim him on our taxes every other year. Prior to the Judge signing the final version of the Permanent Order, my ex and his attorney deceptively changed the Co-Parenting Therapist percentage splits from 33/77% to 40/60%, and no one--not the Judge, my attorney, or myself caught it before it was signed. On top of that, he has now filed a Motion to Show Cause to find me in Contempt of Court for "violating" the Court Order because of TARDINESS (due to traffic accidents/things beyond my control) and for Delinquency in Payment to Our Child's Therapist (which is not even true, as I am now caught up.) For the Tardiness Contempt of Court claim he is trying to have the Permanent Order modified by having the location where we "exchange" our child for morning & afternoon drop-off/pickups changed to one which is substantially closer to him (He lives & works from his home in Raleigh, & I live in and work at my office in Durham.) He is also seeking attorney's fees for both claims.
Up until recently, I was legally represented by a family law attorney, but she has since withdrawn from my case because of a combination of family health reasons, the constant stress my ex has put on her life throughout this case, and my inability to pay her almost nothing since everything started. She said that because Contempt of Court is a criminal matter, I "should" qualify for a court-appointed attorney, but at this point, I don't know what exactly will happen when/if the case goes to trial in Nov. After I pay my bills (rent, utilities, car payment, credit card bills, etc,) I have less than $200 to cover gas, food, and all of the Court-ordered appointments. I receive the NC Guidelines Child Support amt of just over $250, but have been so broke trying to cover all of these new extra appointments bills, that I've had to take cash advances out on my credit cards just to deposit them into my checking acct to keep any payments from bouncing. This new Parenting Coordinator fee arrangement is just completely over the top. I have yet to even have my intake appointment with her (which is Thurs morning,) and I already owe her almost $200! I will owe her at least another $80 after my Thurs appt, and we were charged $17.50 just for the e-mail for me to schedule my intake appt with her to begin with! There are no payment plans available, and if it's not paid in 7 days, she can charge a $2000 retainer, and take me to Court.
I cannot afford all of the financial responsibilities the Judge has now placed upon me--not by a long shot, I now have no legal representation, and am facing criminal charges. It is clear to me, my former attorney and everyone BUT the Judge, and the oblivious therapists, my child's father's ultimate intent is to bankrupt me to the point where I have no choice but to sacrifice joint custody of my child, as he keeps dragging me into Court for even the most ridiculous of reasons.I already filed for bankruptcy back in 2013, so he is quite aware of my past financial history and is clearly trying to use this to his own advantage as much as possible. He is essentially a predator, who uses every single Our Family Wizard Communication, anything our child might say, etc as an opportunity to try to find another reason to come after me in Court, and I virtually have no protection from this person any time I am forced to communicate with him. I have now taken on TWO extra part-time jobs in addition to my full-time one just to try to keep from having to go deeper into debt, but I cannot keep fighting a monetary battle which I obviously cannot win.
Can someone please tell me what will take place on the day of the hearing now that I am currently pro se? The case is scheduled for 3 hours, but without an attorney, there is no opposing viewpoint, as I wouldn't dare go up against that woman myself--she is just relentless. Will the Judge ask me if I would like to have a Court-appointed attorney, and that if I cannot afford one, one will be provided for me? Will I need to provide financial documentation to demonstrate financial need? I have already had to turn over years' worth of bank statements, credit card statements, Paypal statements, etc, every time they demand Discovery, and obviously, that has not been enough to get the Judge to see exactly how little money I actually have. My attorney actually had to bluntly point out to her that while 40% of a $2000 retainer was not a lot to her, it was almost an entire paycheck for me. Still, that was not enough to get this Judge to see the grave disparity in our incomes, and how utterly impossible these orders are for someone in my current financial situation. One of the worst parts of all of this is, following my bankruptcy in 2013, once I returned to employment in 2016, I was actually on my way to having "good" credit. I had actually been given a fresh start, and was being very responsible with the credit cards I had, while building up my credit at the same time, and now, in a matter of 2 years, because of the relentless malicious attacks by one individual, it is almost all gone. I am certainly not trying to purposely make myself out to be a "victim," but I honestly do not know what to do any more?