Release disabled Dad of 4 from jail for not paying $450 an hr attorney he never hired
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Nick Carapia “Nick” is a devoted husband and father to his 4 children. He and his wife recently moved to Portage, Indiana in order to provide their children with the best schools and safest neighborhood possible. His 2 oldest daughters, “J” age 11 and “O” age 9, came from a previous relationship and spent the majority of the time in their Fathers care. Nick’s wife has been in their lives since the girls were 3 and 1 and “loves them as if they were her own”. The girls were ecstatic to welcome their new little sister in 2010 followed by their baby brother exactly 1 year later. “From the beginning, the kids were Brother/Sister. We don’t use terms like “Step” or “Half” to explain the relationship between them.” says Nick. Their mother, Mary Day “Mary”, verbally agreed to allow Nick to care for the girls as long as she was kept involved. For approximately 3 years, Mary would attend family parties and spent time with the girls at Nick’s home as well as her own. Mary was working late nights as a waitress in a Chicago Bar & Grill and per her Facebook posts, would spend her free time out at the bars partying with various people. Nick continued to pay child support to Mary despite the minimal time she spent caring for the girls.
Nick was the sole provider in his family, working for UPS for 14 years as a package car driver. In August of 2016, Nick suffered a severe injury when the cable supporting the overhead door on his truck snapped while he was unloading packages from his truck. The door, weighing 400 pounds, was supported by a cable that malfunctioned causing it to fall of his head. He received 7 staples in his head, suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury), permanent scarring, bone spurs and bulging discs in his C-1 through C-3 in his cervical spine. In addition, he suffers from short term memory loss, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, and migraines.
At the same time, Mary filed a motion to Modify Child Support. Despite the fact that Nick had the girls more than not and still paid child support, Mary wanted more. Mary knew that she would have to minimize the time the girls spent with Nick in order to support her request for more support. Mary began leaving the girls with anyone who would take them, including her new live in boyfriend Zack. Zack is roughly 10 years her junior and has no children of his own. The girls expressed their dislike of Zack from the beginning. The girls went from a stable, safe environment to being tossed around to different sitters and/or parents of friends. Mary would not allow the girls to speak to Nick, going almost 2 weeks with no contact. Nick attempted to contact the 9th district in order to execute a well being check. After being transferred 3 times, a very uninterested and seemingly bothered woman said she would send someone but could not call him back to confirm the outcome. As former residents of the City of Chicago, the lack of assistance did not surprise Nick but it was better than nothing. He later found that the check was never done.
Consequently, Nick filed a Petition to Modify Parental allocations. The petition informed the court of various issues involving Mary including her drinking problem, drug use, and late nights spent away from the girls. We found out that the girls were being left home alone some nights also. Nick asked the court to make him the custodial parent and allow Mary visitation every other weekend and one day during the week for 4 hours. In addition, Holidays and Birthdays would be split according to odd and even years.
At the first hearing, Judge Abbey Fishman Romanak presided and would become their regular judge. At this time, both parties were Pro Se and attended the court date scheduled to address Mary’s child support issue and Nicks Motion to modify parenting allocations (Motion to change custody). Mary’s issue was immediately dismissed due to issues with the states attorney while Nick’s petition was completely ignored by Judge Romanak, admttingly stating that she did not read the petition nor wanted to hear verbal arguments on the matter. She appointed a child representative meant to act as an unbiased and trusted person to the court. This was somewhat of a relief to Nick since he could not get a word in with the judge and hoped that this person could speak with the girls and report the information to the court. Nick found that the child rep appointed was a former judge who stamped an order from 5 years prior n the same case. This made him unable to act as a child rep. Judge Romanak was unhappy to learn of her mistake and angrily said “I am personally hand picking this guardian ad litem”. The order stated that both parties were obligated to contact and pay $500 to a Mr. Stuart Gelfman. Judge Romanak ordered that Nick would have parenting time every other weekend and one day during the week for 4 hours. Without explanation, Judge Romanak minimized Nick’s parenting time despite being their primary care giver since birth.
“Interruption of a continuous relationship with a loving and nurturing parent invariably leaves scars that do not heal completely and may affect the child's future ability to form relationships and become a good parent himself. Such experts are likely to recommend that the child stay with the parent to whom he has the stronger attachment (if they can determine which parent that is), even though the other parent may be better off, more intelligent, more consistent, more patient, and generally more appealing”
Against Nick’s wishes, Mary allowed both girls to have their own facebook account. During a visit, Nick began reviewing messages on both accounts in order to monitor who they are talking to. The oldest girl had a message from a man named Curtis Williams who was on her friend list. The message was a pornographic video clip depicting a woman having sex with a horse. After further review, he discovered that he was “FB Friends” with Zack, Mary’s live in boyfriend.
Nick, unaware if the message was seen by the girls yet, carefully asked if there was anything they wanted to talk about. The video was not mentioned, however the youngest broke down and explained that Mary was bringing vagrants home from the bar and allowing them to sleep in the girls beds. The girls were made to sleep on the living room floor of the small 2 bedroom house while their Mary and friends stayed up all night drinking and being loud in the kitchen. Like several times before, the girls begged not to go back to Mary’s stating that she tells them not to say anything to Nick about her leaving at night because they will call the police and have Mommy arrested. The girls went on to say that their Mom threatened if she was arrested, the girls would be put into foster care. Mary even went as low to tell then if she lost custody of them, she would take her own life.
With this information, Nick filed an emergency petition to change temporary custody. In support of this, he listed the following;
• The horse pornography sent to “J” by the friend of Mary’s live in boyfriend
• Mary’s inability to follow the court order by denying phone calls and arbitrarily changing pick up times in order to alienate the children from him
• The girls complaints of random people brought from the bar sleeping in their beds while they sleep on the hard floor
• Proof that despite the close proximately from Mom’s house to school; Mary is unable to get the girls to school on time. (44 Tardies and 13 Unexcused absences a piece)
The emergency motion was heard by a new judge and although she showed disgust in what she was reading, ordered that the emergency did not exist. The motion was scheduled the following week with Judge Romanak. The hearing was set for 11.14.16 and notice was given to Mary as well as the new GAL, Mr. Gelfman.
On 11.14.16, Mary did not show up however Judge Romanak actually read this motion and expressed the same disgust as anyone would. Instead of moving forward, she continued the emergency for the next day. She told Nick to notify her via talking parents, a PRICED, court approved messaging system for parents who have communication issues, and if she doesn’t appear the Judge will rule in his favor.
On 11.15.16, Nick arrived to court and Mary was present. At approximately 10:00am, Judge Romanak ordered them to emergency intervention and told Mary to pick the girls up from school and bring them to Family Mediation Services so they could be interviewed by Ms. Farrah Flynn. Nick arrived at approximately 10:15am, filled out the necessary paperwork and completed his one on one interview with Ms. Flynn. He provided her numerous photos of Mary and her friends drinking heavily, half naked in her home. In 3 pictures, you can actually see the girls in the background along with clutter and garbage scattered throughout the house. He included the pornographic message sent to “J” and notified her that the girls may be reluctant to speak since they suddenly feared foster care. At noon, Mary had not yet arrived with the girls and both Nick and Ms. Flynn became worried. The official Google map directions gave an estimated round trip estimate of 32 minutes and after 2 hours, Mary was yet to arrive. Finally at 12:20pm Mary showed up with the girls. The officer at the desk immediately asked if she was the “emergency mom” to which she loudly replied in front of the girls “Yes, their Father is trying to have them removed from my custody”.
At 3:30pm, Ms Flynn came out and said we needed to return to court. In court Ms. Flynn stated the following facts;
• It took over 1 hour and 45 minutes for the girls to start talking
• The older child did not want to talk about anything at mom's
• When the younger one began speaking too much, the older sister quieted her.
• Vagrants regularly sleep in the home, The girls are made to sleep on the floor.
• In regards to the pornography, the older sister denies seeing any photos that upset her while the younger sister said there was definitely a photo that upset her.
• That her mom doesn't wake up in the morning and confirmed the girls are late or absent from school every single day
• That their Grandma, who is also a drug addict, will also, be moving into her 2 bedroom home.
• That mom has parties and drinks every night
• When asked about the 2 hours Mary took to get to the building, the girls admitted their mom told them if they talked about moms, they will be put into foster care.
• The intervener concluded by giving her opinion that something is going on at mom's that the girls are bothered by and that it's not safe.
For the first time, Judge Romanak scolded Mary, stating that she “should remove the kids immediately”. After Mary produced a few crocodile tears, the judge continued the motion for a 5th time for 3 day s later. Mr. Gelfman, who was unable to be present for the entire day, sent his secretary in his place. Along with the continuance set for 11.18.17, she ordered;
• The girls be enrolled in therapy immediately
• Both parties participate in home visits
• The girls not be subjected to transient adults in their home
• That Stuart Gelfman contact Ms. Flynn for a report of today’s meeting
Essentially, Judge Romanak could not decide on her own with all the facts given to her and wanted Mr. Gefman’s opinion to move forward.
Nick sent Mr. Gelfman an email THOUROUGHLY explaining everything that happened and included the order where he was to discuss the intervention with Ms. Flynn. His email stressed the importance of therapy and after researching Child Psychologists that worked with his insurance, offered several suggestions.
GELFMAN NEVER RESPONDED
On 11.18.17, the 5th continuance for emergency custody was held. Mr. Gelfman approached Nick asking about Thanksgiving visitation. Confused, Nick asked what happened to the facts brought to light during the intervention. Mr. Gelfman stated that he did not agree with the girls being relocated at this time. He admitted that he NEVER spoke to Ms. Flynn but he interviewed the girls in the beginning of November when Mary brought them to his office while in route to a water park! That very statement is exactly what we have tried to express and what was verified by Ms. Flynn; Mary manipulates, bribes, and threatens the girls into lying or keeping secrets for her. Had he bothered contacting Ms. Flynn he would have known this. So after driving and parking at the Daley center for 3 days that week, pulling the girls out of school and subjecting them to the intervention and all the fear their Mother instilled in them NOTHING WAS DONE. It was dismissed. Not to mention when we received Gefman’s bill on December 4th, we learned that the $500 payment was merely a deposit and he was charging $450.00 an hour! since he wasn’t present the day of the intervention, we were charged for his secretaries time which is a whopping $350.00 an hour for court time and $310.00 for office time. According to Gelfman bill, the secretary spent 2.58 hours in court and .67 hours in office time for the daily total of $1110.84! Nick sent a polite email asking if he had spoken to Ms. Flynn yet, asking about therapy, and addressed more issues involving the girls.
GELFMAN NEVER RESPONDED
Gelfman didn’t look into anything that transpired that day, disregarded the girls living conditions or what they had to say. This man was appointed by this judge to care about the best interests of the girls, not his own. It’s disturbing to know that he is considered an expert witness in court and allowed to testify on behalf of the girls.
After facing one defeat after another, Nick retained an attorney, Laurie Hickman, to assist him in this battle turned circus. In an attempt to summarize events that followed:
• Mary retained an attorney Rhonda De Freitas. She is also a professor at the law school where Judge Romanak graduated.
• On March 28th 2016, “O” came back to Nick’s with a large bruise on her back and upper buttocks. When asked how she got it she stated that she was doing gymnastics at her Mom’s and Zack yelled for her to “shut up” which startled her and caused her to fall onto a toy. Looking at this bruise, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it didn’t happen under those circumstances.
• Nick brought a picture of the bruise to the police department and after hearing the story and seeing the bruises, wrote a police report and assigned it to a detective.
• Nick’s attorney notified Mr. Gelfman of the incident on the same day.
IT TOOK GELFMAN 2 WEEKS TO RESPOND
• On April 11th 2017, 2 weeks after the bruises were discovered and Mr. Gelfman was notified, he finally responded and wanted to see “O” in his office so Nick brought her in. After the brief meeting, Gelfman reported that she told 2 different stories but it was believed to have happened in the bathtub on the night Nick discovered them. The pictures taken on that night show an extremely large bruise that had been there for longer than 5 minutes.
• Nick’s attorney files a complaint against Stuart Gelfman with the ARDS (Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission and a motion to remove him citing reasons such as;
1. Gelfman never investigated the pornographic material being sent to J
2. The girls had serious attendance issues in school and despite Nick’s warnings, Gelfman never followed up on it.
3. Nick provided Gelfman with countless amounts of evidence to support his numerous allegations yet nothing was investigated.
4. Gelfman waited 2 weeks to see “O” in regards to the bruising on her back and buttocks.
5. After 10 months and billing in excess of $4,000, Gelfman had yet to conduct his own visit or witness the girls interact with either parent
6. “J” hand wrote a letter stating she was uncomfortable talking to Gelfman because things discussed at the first meeting were known by her Mother and she was grounded
7. Gelfman never contacted or followed up with Ms. Flynn, the intervener, when ordered to do so. (In addition to her motion, she filed to subpoena Ms. Flynn so that she could provide her reports from the intervention.)
• Gelfman files Rule to show cause against Mary and Nick for nonpayment of fees
• Nick’s motion to remove Gelfman as well as his Rule to show cause for Mary not following the order was on August 10th 2017. At the hearing Ms. Hickman, Nick’s attorney, began with the motion to remove Gelfman. Before getting through her first point, she was interrupted by Gelfman who argued that it was all about Nick not wanting to pay his bill and that he had an “excellent relationship with those sweet girls”. He also felt it necessary to notify Judge Romanak that Ms Hickman filed a complaint against him with the ARDC. Judge Romanak reiterated that she handpicked Mr. Gelfman for this case and said she believed he was doing an excellent job. When asked, Judge Romanak said that she didn’t have to read the motion and dismissed them. The Rule to show cause was dismissed when Mary’s attorney, Rhonda De Freitas, and Mr. Gelfman claimed that they didn’t receive copies. To add insult to injury, Ms. Flynn accompanied by the states attorney appeared in court to say that she could not locate the report nor could she remember the intervention that took place 9 months ago! Mr. Gelfman appeared very content as he exited the court with Ms. De Freitas. Mr. Gelfman’s arrogance led him to believe he didn’t need to consult with Ms. Flynn even though she spent more time with his clients than he had
• The only thing Gelfman had been efficient in is sending monthly invoices. they are sent via email and along with a list of services, he keeps a running record of what each party owes. He also has a section for accounts receivable that reflects payments made. For the first time since Dec of 2015, Dad did not receive an invoice for August however in July’s invoice it states that Dad owes $2433.53 and Mary owes $2433.52. At that point both paid $500 and the extra penny went to Dad for no viable reason.
In preparation for the hearing for Rule to show cause for nonpayment, Dad completes a financial affidavit to reflect his sole income comes from Workman’s Comp checks and itemized expenses. Not only is he current with child support obligations, he pays for extracurricular activities, clothing and other miscellaneous items for “J” and “O” plus all their needs during his parenting time. The Response for the rule to show cause, financial affidavit and check stubs were submitted to the court. Neither Mary nor her attorney filed any response.
• According to case law, a GAL’s fees are improper when there is no evidence presented on the services performed, the basis of the award, or the reasonableness of the fees.
The hearing for Gelfman's rule to show cause against Mary and Nick for nonpayment was held on September 1st. 2017. Mr. Gelfman began explaining that they were here for his fees. He immediately focused on Nick’s payment saying he hasn’t received anything from Nick since November when he paid the $500 on 11/11/2014. Ms. Hickman, Nick’s attorney, began arguing that he is disabled and is receiving workman’s comp. She was explaining that he paid Mary a lump sum child support payment of $600 recently to catch up from when he was first injured when Ms. De Freitas interrupted asking what this had to do with Gelfman’s fees. Judge Romanak smiled and agreed with De Freitas that it was irrelevant. Essentially Nick was held in contempt for failure to pay and was given 30 days to pay $1500 or would go to jail. When Mary’s turn came, Gelfman said she paid “here and there”. Curiously, he could NOT provide an exact amount Mary had paid at the hearing on his OWN motion for fees!
Mary was NOT held in contempt.
• On September 5th 2017 Mr. Gelfman sends a bill of $3,779.16 for new “services” via email making the total owed $8,456.21. The recent invoice shows that he spent 3.83 hours reviewing the petition to have him removed, charging $1533.33.
• There is also a payment from Mary in the amount of $100.00 dated 6-15-17 that was not on June’s original invoice.
This case began when a Father tried ensuring that his daughters were raised in a loving and stable environment. After properly filing his court motions, giving notice to the opposition, and having proof to back up his statements, Judge Romanak couldn’t be bothered with it and appointed Stuart Gelfman. After Nick succeeded in getting an emergency intervention for the girls with Family Mediation Services and having all of his concerns validated, Stuart Gelfman ignored the order to consult with her. After realizing that Judge Romanak would never allow him to speak, he retained Ms. Hickman, an attorney, to assist him. Ms. Hickman firmly agreed that Mr. Gelfman was not doing his job and moved to remove him in addition to filing a complaint with the ARDC. Judge Romanak took personal offense to the motion to remove and like all motions before this, didn’t look at a single page. Stuart Gelfman, who claims the filing was an attempt to avoid payment, recommended to Judge Romanak that Nick be thrown in jail if $1500.00 is not paid in 30 days. Mary was not found in contempt despite having paid the same amount as Nick.
At this time Mary is confidently ignoring the court order in hopes of alienating the children from their Father. The following are the latest issues based on information and belief;
1. Mary’s Mother and one of her Brothers, who suffers from mild retardation, have moved in to their 2 bedroom house so they have officially lost their room and beds**
2. After school, the girls are bounced around from person to person because Mary works 12 hour shifts while Zack and Pam sleep. **
3. Mary uses Julia to retrieve drugs from her dealer when he arrives in front of their house**
4. Mary cut about 2 feet of hair off of both girls when temporary dye was put in at Nick’s house over summer break*
5. Mary claimed not to have transportation and refused to meet at the court ordered exchange point. When notified Mary’s attorney replied that “car issues happen”.*
6. Mary grounded the girls when Julia’s best friend spent a week with her by their Dad’s. Also, Mary became belligerent and cursed at the 11 year old girl and her Mother for no reason other than the fact she went to Nick’s. **
7. Mary threatens that if the girls say anything negative about her or her household “she will make their school year miserable”.**
This 32 year old Father of 4 who dedicates his life to his family suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) when a 400lb door came down on his head. He was model employee for 14 years, with affidavits from his managers to corroborate, who was involved in a freak accident right when these proceedings began. He does vestibular therapy 3 days a week and attends numerous doctors’ appointment so that he can heal and get back to work all while dealing with the stress and incredible frustration of not being able to help his girls. Mr. Gelfman has not complied with Judge Romanak's orders, yet faces no consequence. Judge Romanak does not have a court reporter and allows only the parties involved as well as Gelfman, Ms Hickman, and De Freitas who happens to be a professor at the law school Romanak attended. Instead of following the law and addressing the SERIOUS physical and emotional abuse the children suffer at the hands of their Mother, Judge Romanak has sided with Ms. De Freitas and Mr. Gelfman in what seems to be a childish display of teaching Ms. Hickman a lesson.
The court system has failed these children over and over again. Judge Romanak has ignored every motion submitted by Nick and his attorney. Although his disability has caused financial hardship, Nick ensured his child support was paid and his family was taken care of. Judge Romanak only cares that the lawyer she appointed isn't being paid regularly and for that reason alone, has sent this Father to jail.
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