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Dead Beat Dad Court – diary of a document examiner

Hi, this is Bart Baggett, President of the International School of Forensic Document Examination.

If you’re interested in a new career, this short series of  blogs that I call Diary of a Forensic Document Examiner will help you decide if this field is right for you.  Please read the  blogs carefully and see if this career is for you. If so, get your handwritten applications in right away; spaces are limited.

We do like to have students who are a perfect fit, and we pay very special attention to the applications. These simple informational pieces will help you understand the ‘day in the life’ of an examiner.

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Today was a fascinating day for me because I got to go to a popular “niche” courthouse in Los Angeles where I had never testified before. I spend most of my time testifying in the L.A. Civil Court or in the criminal courts. And this year, I have been a fixture at the Los Angeles US Immigration Court. With the new Homeland Security laws, all kinds of paperwork regarding illegal immigrants are scrutinized, and an accusation of forgery is a valid reason for deportation.

But today was different. I actually visited “Dead Beat Dad’s” Court. Well, that’s not the official name for it (obviously). Every state has a different name for this type of court, but it’s a division with meeting rooms and legal procedures around the laws enforcing child support…so it is actually more like “Child Support Court.”

It’s really interesting because you have to pass through security at the front door, and then pass another guard just to go in the waiting area. The attorneys are there in the front row, and no lay witnesses are allowed in the waiting room (too many past fights, I assume).

The initial conference is not in front of a judge, so the entire room is full of women and a few men who are basically trying to get money from “deadbeat dads”, or in some cases “deadbeat moms.”  In Los Angeles particularly, I was told there is $55 million a year in delinquent child support awarded that is extracted from one parent and given to the other.

It’s a very popular system, and usually the parents don’t even meet the judge face-to-face.  They negotiate with a paralegal or someone who represents the county, as a mediator of sorts.

If the parents can’t resolve it there in the mediation room, they push it to the judge to sign an order for garnishment of wages, etc.

It’s an interesting deviation from my normal “testimony day” because normally by the time I get to court, there is no more mediation… I go right to the witness stand and speak to the judge and jury.

In this courthouse, it was basically an arbitration before they moved it to the judge. I just sat and waited to see if they needed me. It’s a very special area of law, especially in America where getting child support is a very big problem.

Child support can be enforced by garnishing wages or putting the deadbeat parent in jail.

Today’s case was after about a year of meeting with my client. He had a signed a receipt from a cash transaction of $2,300 that he had paid his ex-wife for child support back in 1983. I’m writing this in 2011, so it has been almost twenty-eight years ago.

So, it’s not $2,300. Its $2,300 plus interest for twenty-eight years.  He was looking at an outstanding balance of approximately $60,000 that his ex-wife wanted. The kids are adults now, of course. They are 33 years old, and she is coming back saying, “You owe me child support.” My client had the original receipt that his wife signed back in 1983. I don’t know who keeps paperwork for twenty-seven years, but apparently this man knew that his “crazy ex-wife” would do something like this, so he did some great record keeping.

My job was to give testimony to the judge and say, “Look, I’ve done a forensic examination on this document. It is not a forgery. It is not suspicious. It is an authentic receipt written by the mom in 1982.”

Luckily we had examples from 1982, 1983, and 1984 that matched her handwriting, so as far as forensics, it was an easy case because we had originals. We had good samples of her known writing from the 1980’s, and it was a conclusive opinion with no qualifications.

Of all the cases I’ve had, it wasn’t the most difficult one to arrive at an answer.

I found it interesting that his ex-wife would have the gumption to sue and lie in court and say he never paid her a payment twenty-eight years ago… so that she could get $2,300 plus interest, today.

Do you know how bad the laws are in favor of the person who has custody of the child? The custodial parent generally always receives an award from the courts. She made the accusation about past due child support ten years ago, so this case has been going on for a very long time. My client’s passport was taken away, his driver’s license was taken away, and he had some of his wages garnished…all under the false presumption that he had not paid her child support… 28 years ago!

My client finally got the issue resolved; it was negotiated and arbitrated away, so I didn’t have to testify at all that day. However, I did get paid a flat fee for showing up to the court, because that’s the way the forensic document examination business is. We get paid for every step, the initial opinion of the lab work, the letter or report, and for showing up to court.

This guy who had already spent a lot of money on attorneys had to pay me another $500 deposit to show up in the courtroom and wait.

I actually did him a favor because he was a little bit destitute.

Normally I would charge $1,000 regardless of whether I testified, but he had been such a nice guy and he had already spent so much money, I said, “Well, I’ll show up at 10:00 a.m. and if I don’t testify we won’t charge the other $500.”

The average range you’re going to get is between $1,000 and $1,200 if you testify. In this case, we took the $500 non-refundable deposit. I showed up and I got paid $500.

Actually, I sat and visited with my client and his attorney and learned a little bit about the system… and I wrote this article.

So that was my day at the court. I got paid NOT to testify; I helped somebody clear a  false allegation from his “crazy ex-wife.” (That’s his quote, not mine). So, it was a good day in the life of a forensic document examiner.

Please check your e-mail or read my upcoming blogs about this exciting business.

As I said, I’m going to write more stories over the next few weeks…small clips from the life of an examiner.

Before you submit your application, and especially before you commit to attending our Document Exam School for 4-6 semesters, you will want to know this is right for you.

As your mentor and teacher, I want to make sure that this career is right for you. When we deny applications for admission, it is normally because we don’t think the applicant is a good fit and we don’t think they will succeed in the business, not just pass the classes.

We’re the only school in the world where you can get trained and the only school where you will get help in launching a career as a certified document examiner. It’s a unique opportunity, but it’s not for everybody. So please take time, watch the videos, explore the online website and call us with any questions before the next class starts.

We’d like you to be in it, if it’s a good fit for you.

Overview and Video Tour:

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“This school is a blessing for those who want to break into a field which until now… had no formal structure for proper training. This school has changed my life.”
– Teresa DeBerry, Birmingham AL, USA



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