Divorce and Family Law attorney Jonathan Steele, also a volunteer for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, wins a mother’s case despite initial miscommunication and months of contentious litigation. The details of the case were printed in the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services November 2012 Newsletter as follows:

Who owes what?

CVLS volunteer Jonathan D. Steele, of Beerman Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP, agreed to help a mother of four collect child support. However, after he got into the case, he discovered that the father, the previous custodian, already had a judgment against her for $8,000 for unpaid child support.

Clearly the children’s current needs were a priority, so Jonathan filed a petition for support. Eventually, the judge sanctioned the father by barring him from testifying or offering evidence of income at the hearing, for refusing to respond to Jonathon’s discovery requests. Without any evidence from the father, the court calculated the father’s current support obligation based upon Jonathan’s evidence of the dad’s net income. Dad was ordered to pay current support and make payments on his accumulated retroactive support.

Once the current child support issue was resolved, Jonathan worked to vacate the judgment of retroactive support entered against the mother in 2009. While the age of the order made Jonathon’s job challenging, it was even harder because his client had already tried, and failed, to get it vacated. Jonathon was concerned that another attempt would be denied because of res judicata. He needed a creative approach.

Working with his client, Jonathan scoured bank records and canceled checks to create a list of all of the money the mother had given the father during his custody. Armed with this pile of evidence, Jonathan carefully crafted a request to admit, which required that the father admit or deny a series of facts relating to the case. When the father failed to respond to the pleading, the judge entered an order admitting each fact, including the admission that he had been paid in full. The judge’s order contained a finding nullifying the judgment previously entered against the mother.

Despite the initial miscommunication and months of contentious litigation, the mother won her case thanks to hard work and diligence by Jonathan and his supervising partner, CVLS volunteer Enrico Mirabelli.