Listening to: Sigur Ros, Takk...
Yes, I should have updated right away to let everyone know I am fine. Instead, I decided to be selfish and take some time for myself. As you saw, I had the wee ones from Jan. 2 until Thursday and hey – I needed a breather.
So, obviously I’m not in prison. Things actually worked out better than anyone anticipated. My attorney was blown away by what went down. Two-thirds of the time we rambled around that little corner of the courthouse she was convinced I’d be leaving in shackles.
While waiting for the proceedings to begin, X and I cooled our heels out in the hall, griping about what a screwed up situation we were entering into, growling about what a mess BushCo has created in our country and how badly we need to impeach the sonofabitch.
My attorney, Erin, approached and asked for a few words. She was reticent, pessimistic, certain I’d be spending my next night in the stir. We eased into a side room and she spelled out what she felt would happen: certainly jail time, how long was in question. Telling her how insane jail time would be, I handed her X’s letter and told her why the both of us thought the state needed to reconsider.
She read the letter, mumbling, “Oh, very good, this is very good.” She then asked if the woman I was sitting next to in the hall was X. I told her yes, that was X.
“So you two…”
“Yes, we get along very well, better than we ever did when we were married.”
That news and the weight of the words in the letter obviously changed things for Erin in a big way. Over the next couple of hours, she listened as X and I chatted, saw that we indeed were good friends. She heard X tell about Noble and how I lost my job after Zeke was mauled by my brother’s dog. She got to see that X and I are two people struggling at the bottom rung of society and through mutual support, helping each other catch a breath lest we drown.
When the attorney representing the state approached Erin to discuss what the state would seek, Erin spoke pointedly, “We need to talk some more about this… see me in the hall.”
Of course I have no way of knowing what was said but Erin must have shown the state’s attorney the letter and given her the benefit of her observations. They stayed in the hall for at least 10 minutes and when they returned, the change in tone was palpable. The state’s attorney entered the courtroom and we waited another five minutes before we were called in.
The magistrate called us to the docket, acknowledged the parties, reiterated why we were there. She then commented, “It appears Ms. McQuiggin has written a letter to the court as an appeal to keep Mr. McQuiggin out of jail and that both parties have an amicable agreement to share custody. Am I correct in this?”
Both attorneys concurred. The magistrate continued, "When the needs of the state conflict with the welfare of children, I have to rule in favor of the children. Since this couple seems to have worked out their differences, share custody under what is essentially a 50/50 situation, and have been provided for their children under extreme circumstances, I think the state ought to reassess what Mr. McQuiggin is paying and come up with a different sum." She then ordered the state's attorney to meet with my attorney, X, and me to calculate an amount more in line with what I make, what X makes, and our custody arrangement.
We were dismissed momentarily and met in the side room. The state's attorney broke out her files and calculator and arrived at $41 per month support plus $59 to pay the arrears - $100 per month. Everyone then returned to the courtroom and the judge made it official.
This was at the end of the day, the docket cleared, an empty courtroom except for both parties and our attorneys, the magistrate and the recorder. Erin said she felt we were delayed in order to prevent other plaintiffs and attorneys from witnessing how well the case went for me and X. The magistrate asked X if she was agreeable to the amount and she readily agreed. Having X’s blessing, the magistrate deferred my sentencing on the contempt charge for failure to pay child support, set the deferment off until February 2007 when, if I’ve complied with paying $100 a month, the matter will be wiped from the books.
Erin was nonplussed, declaring she’d never seen a case like ours turned around so favorably. I have to admit that I was likewise stunned. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d walk out of there free and with a substantially lowered order.
Thank you, all of you, my friends, for getting behind me on this and offering your support. I especially want to thank Lauren (again!) for stating my case on her blog with her much more articulate voice and sharing it with her substantially larger audience. I’m forever her thrall.
Each and every one of you holds a special place in my heart.