In a Virginia court of law, a judge in my child support case evaluated my ex-fiance and I’s income according to her own judgement and the state’s child support calculator. When I told her that I had launched my company (Made by a Black Woman) in January and was currently only able to show her what I had been making (a little over $500 a month) vs. what I will be making consistently in the future she asked “Well what did you make last year?” Last year I signed on to make about $60,000 from a full-time job. I also had income from organizing events and poetry performances. She then asked “How did you go from making $65,000 to making $500 a month? I explained to her that I was laid off in August and decided to start my own business. Her response was
“If you can’t make $30, 000 – $40,000 running your own business then you need to find a job”
Immediately my blood began to boil! Who was she to make this judgment? I just launched the business in January. It’s only April. We are barely out of the first quarter and speaking in terms of quarters I’ve made significant progress for a small business considering that I’ve had to take out loans to cover expenses. Business is growing. I am Shelly Bell, LLC is the overarching business with Made by a Black Woman as a fashion company and MsPrint USA as a custom apparel printing company under it’s umbrella. She asked how much I would be making if I were recorded my income as $40, 000 which I am on par for making and quite possibly likely to exceed. I resent the idea that an honorable judge responsible for upholding the laws of the land, who most likely when into huge debt trying to become such person made a comment that has NOTHING to do with my child support case and insinuates that I could possibly be attempting to gain support for myself outside of my child. I was granted $700 a month which is JUST enough to cover costs for daycare for my 18 month old. This is all that I have been requesting of her father and all the input I needed from the courts. Whether or not I “should” continue my passion for entrepreneurship is NOT the call of any judge.
If court was a safe space where you could represent yourself and be respected as a human being who is capable of representing yourself I would have had this reply for the judge:
“While I understand that you are not a fan of marginalized groups who don’t have the resources to borrow large lump sums of money to start a business you have no right to minimize my efforts to own my own business with your limited views. Such snide remarks should be unlawful and I should have the right to request another judge. It is possible that I have the right to request another judge, but I have been advised by lawyers that I would be risking the “bad kid” syndrome where the new judge would be judging me based on your opinions. This affects my safety and trust in the court system. Your comments affect my trust in the right to fairness by someone who is supposedly knowledgeable enough to facilitate law enforcement in Virginia but lacks understanding of marginalization and how that affects entrepreneurs of color. Women of color entrepreneurs to be exact. I am appalled by the idea that a judge who lacks empathy is even presiding over my case. I came here for fairness and I am leaving in fear of neither my ex or I receiving such.”
Since this incident my ex and I have decided to settle out of court with our own document. The picture above is the picture hanging directly behind the judge while we discuss visitation and child support. How the hell can a citizen feel safe looking at that?! A BLACK CITIZEN TO BE EXACT!
Thank you for reading!