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Author Topic: Florida Judge Withholds Child Support Payments  (Read 2984 times)


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Florida Judge Withholds Child Support Payments
« on: Jan 07, 2004, 11:36:33 AM »
Florida Judge Withholds Child Support Payments
He couldn’t take it

January 4, 2004
by Tom Kovach

I’ve tried to avoid whining in this column, but today it’s my turn.
In a recent news item, it was revealed that a judge in Florida had stopped making his court-ordered child-support payments for a year.  He didn’t go back to the original court and ask to stop paying.  He simply stopped.  Of course, he claimed to have a good reason for withholding the payments.  You see, his ex-wife had been arrested a second time for DUI.  He sees nothing wrong with his actions.  And, in a way, neither do I.

But, what if that was me, or any other (read closely) “Beat-Dead” father?

Ironically, Circuit Judge Bob Wattles justified his withholding the payments because, “By my calculations, I'm ahead. I paid more than I should have when I stopped.”  He based that statement on the fact — undisputed, by the way — that he had been voluntarily paying about $300 more per month than the court had required.  But, I will pose the questions that any judge in a Family Court would ask a regular father under the same circumstances.  Don’t you think your child will need to eat sometime before he turns 18?!  What did he expect his son to do, store up blubber like a whale?

The irony continues, though.  The judge’s required child support was only $358 per month.  On a judge’s salary?!  My support payment, for only one child, is $123.50 per week!  And, my “real” job only pays $8.50 per hour, and I usually don’t get 40 hours in a week.  (Thus, I have more time for my real love, writing, even though it doesn’t pay.)  From years of experience in the Fathers’ Rights movement, I know that there are plenty more fathers voluntarily over-paying their fair share than there are fathers (especially judges) getting away with under-paying.  Although I admire Judge Wattles for paying more than the minimum, I simultaneously deplore the fact that another judge let him get by with paying so little in the first place.

Perhaps the judge really meant well.  (And, deep down, my gut tells me that he did.)  Perhaps he recognized that he was enabling his ex-wife’s drinking habit by giving her all that money.  Perhaps it was his way of protesting and punishing her behavior, and also protecting their son.  Fine.  Bravo.  Good for you, judge.  You have the right idea.  But, what about all the other fathers across this country (and others) that have been forced to enable whatever bad habits their ex-wives might acquire?  And, what about all the other fathers that have technically violated a court order for trying to do the right thing?

For example, when our divorce became final, my ex-wife had gone through three attorneys.  She finally went pro se.  Then, she started messing around with my access to our daughter.  I applied for custody, and I sued her for alienation of affections.  Then, she got one of her attorneys back.  Then, he started billing her.  Up until that point, we had a great system of child support.  I paid her regularly with Postal Money Orders.  I kept records as best I could.  But, when the lawyer started billing my ex-wife, she suddenly went to the Family Court and demanded that I be put on “The System”.  And, by her attorney’s skillful calculations, I became a “deadbeat” from day one.  (And, of course, my custody and civil suits were dismissed.)  

Of course, common sense tells anyone — except Family Court judges — that she is spending my child support money on her attorney.  And, some of his legal fees were tacked onto my “support” obligation.  And, when my ex-wife refused to let our daughter see me one Fathers’ Day, I stopped paying.  Then, the attorney petitioned the court to have me jailed for contempt.  But, does anyone care?

During that same time, my ex-wife has systematically denied me access to our daughter, alienated her against me, married a guy who lived with his parents until he was 38 years old, and moved our daughter into a run-down rural house.  (My ex’s own word for it was “dumpy”.)  She has also — by her own admission, in court papers — racked up more than $24,000 in multiple credit-card debts.  We only had one credit card when we were married, and I cut it up when it got out of hand at only $2,000.  Can the court see which one is the responsible parent?  (Well, in the eyes of a Family Court judge, the responsible parent is the one that’s paying a lawyer!)

It galls me that I’m paying “lawyer support”, and helping prepare for an attorney’s children to go to college at the expense of my own.  It galls me that the State of New York refuses to recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome as a valid cause of action.  It galls me that the NY Family Court refuses to enforce Section 241 of the Domestic Relations Law.  (That section says that, if the custodial parent denies access to the child, then the non-custodial parent may stop paying support — after a successful court petition, of course.)  

It galls me that “any reasonable person” can see that the real reason that a total of six Family Court judges have kept my daughter away from me is because I helped to write legislation that reduces their terms from ten years to four.  It galls me that my situation — which seems painful to those with “normal” lives — is nothing compared to millions of other fathers that have it far worse, and that “The System” will not lift a finger to help them.  But, it galls me much more to think that Judge Wattles will probably get away with stopping his support payments (although he was apparently doing the right thing), while other judges would lock up any regular father for using that same method to try to protect their children.

I have to wonder how many fathers Judge Wattles may have locked up previously for not paying support.  Apparently, Judge Wattles thinks that the court system is unfair.  Perhaps the judge thinks it’s all just too confusing.  Or, perhaps the judge can’t afford a lawyer — after that whopping support deduction.  Or, perhaps the judge doesn’t think that one should have to ask a court’s permission to do the right thing and protect one’s child.  Or, perhaps the judge doesn’t think he can afford to take that much time off from work.  (Do any of these concerns sound familiar, gentlemen?)  No matter what the reason, a sitting judge bypassed the judicial system. Apparently, he just couldn’t take it.

Justice isn’t blind; it’s willfully stupid.

Tom Kovach

(From: http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/k/kovach/2004/kovach010404.htm)


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