My ex has been taking me to court for over 4 years to get my joint custody taken away. Her father worked for the courts for 25 years so she hasn’t had to get a lawyer and it’s obviously harassment but they still allow it. What can I do?
This question comes up a lot (in slightly different forms, but the core question, i.e., “At what point will the courts say ‘enough’ to my ex’s incessant litigating (typically over child custody and/or parent-time)?” remains the same).
Because I am a divorce and family lawyer in the state of Utah, I will answer your question in the context of the law and rules governing the state of Utah.
There are many approaches that one can take in response to an ex-spouse or coparent who litigates incessantly and for no good reason. One thing that I didn’t know about as an attorney until late in my career was a motion to have your ex-spouse found to be and then treated as a vexatious litigant under Rule 83 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Here is an excerpt from that rule:
(1) The court may find a person to be a “vexatious litigant” if the person, with or without legal representation, including an attorney acting pro se, does any of the following:
(A) In the immediately preceding seven years, the person has filed at least five claims for relief, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined against the person, and the person does not have within that time at least two claims, other than small claims actions, that have been finally determined in that person’s favor.
(B) After a claim for relief or an issue of fact or law in the claim has been finally determined, the person two or more additional times re-litigates or attempts to re-litigate the claim, the issue of fact or law, or the validity of the determination against the same party in whose favor the claim or issue was determined.
(C) In any action, the person three or more times does any one or any combination of the following:
(i) files unmeritorious pleadings or other papers,
(ii) files pleadings or other papers that contain redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter,
(iii) conducts unnecessary discovery or discovery that is not proportional to what is at stake in the litigation, or
(iv) engages in tactics that are frivolous or solely for the purpose of harassment or delay.
(D) The person purports to represent or to use the procedures of a court other than a court of the United States, a court created by the Constitution of the United States or by Congress under the authority of the Constitution of the United States, a tribal court recognized by the United States, a court created by a state or territory of the United States, or a court created by a foreign nation recognized by the United States.
(b) Vexatious litigant orders. The court may, on its own motion or on the motion of any party, enter an order requiring a vexatious litigant to:
(1) furnish security to assure payment of the moving party’s reasonable expenses, costs and, if authorized, attorney fees incurred in a pending action;
(2) obtain legal counsel before proceeding in a pending action;
(3) obtain legal counsel before filing any future claim for relief;
(4) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any paper, pleading, or motion in a pending action;
(5) abide by a prefiling order requiring the vexatious litigant to obtain leave of the court before filing any future claim for relief in any court; or
(6) take any other action reasonably necessary to curb the vexatious litigant’s abusive conduct.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277