By Reynold N. Mason Esq.
Willie Gary is a wealthy Georgia attorney, no doubt about it. He earns over one million dollars per month. When he met an attractive, svelte runner vying for a spot on the US Olympic decathlon team in 2000, he was smitten. The romance quickly blossomed and not long afterwards, Willie and his new flame were sharing a luxury pad. But things soon soured and the couple separated. By then there were twin boys whom Willie had fathered. For his brief dalliance with the mother he was forced to shell out $28,000.00 per month for child support. As part of the support package Willie had to make the down payment on a house for the boys and his ex- girlfriend, along with her 13 year old daughter by another man and, prepay for four years of college e for the boys. In addition, Willie made a lump sum payment of $175,000.00 for the support and maintenance of the twins. How in the name of justice could a court hang such financial albatross around the neck of a father? Mind you, Willie had been supporting the boys in fine style before the ex- paramour decided she could do better before a Family Court judge.
The truth is, this is not child support. And the judicial hypocrites in black robes well know it. Most state laws provide that children should be maintained, along with the mother in the circumstances to which they have become accustomed. That bit of legal absurdity has been used to justify exorbitant awards of child support that bear no relationship to the needs of the children. Georgia law applicable to Willie’s case provided that children should have the same economic standard of living as a child with parents of similar means living in an intact family. One wonders how a woman who existed on a nurse’s salary all of her adult life can, in so short a lapse of time, become so accustomed to her new high living circumstances, financed by her paramour, that he is obliged, on pain of legal lynching, to continue to pay for her lifestyle long after the relationship has soured?
What happened to Willie Gary is not uncommon. Many other well-to –do fathers have been snared by the child support trap, as I noted in part I of this series. What, these drones do with their newly acquired fortunes is anyone’s guess. The average American family subsists on $50,000.00 per year. So it is difficult to imagine one woman reaping a bonus of $28,000.00 every month disguised as child support. Any fair-minded person, including fair-minded feminists (that may be an oxymoron) would agree that this whopper of a monthly stipend is excessive and beyond the bounds of common sense. In the case of Willie’s ex, she contracted squander mania. Behaving as if she had hit the mega millions jackpot, she made investments, one netting her a profit of $100,000.00, with the child support money. She went on a wild spending spree that often had her waiting anxiously for the next $28,000.00 installment to arrive. She had frequent overdrafts on her checking accounts, and past due fees and charges on her revolving accounts. She became so addicted to the easy cash that the court, in a rare episode of judicial lucidity, expressed concern about her spending habits. Refreshing. The court was concerned that the mother’s pattern of borrowing from friends to tide her over until the next check arrived would have a negative impact on the boys’ welfare. The court said that Willie’s ex, in perfect physical and mental health and capable of full time employment had refused to contribute to her own upkeep. She held a college degree but testified that she had no intention of getting a job.
The gravy train finally came to a stop for Willie’s ex , but not entirely. The court reduced the child support payments to $60,000.00 per year, a mere $10,000.00 more than the average US family of four will take home this year for the toil and moil of two working adults. Collectively, fathers in Willie’s circumstances must hope that this ray of judicial light that illuminated the abuse heaped on fathers paying child support, especially wealthy ones, will gradually shine into the dark corners where, under color of law, fathers are fleeced and put on a fast track to the poor house. Fair minded people should be morally outraged. And our legislators ought to move to banish the state of mind that allows a court to couch its decisions in the “style to which she has become accustomed” disguise. But instead, the NCSL, (National Council of State Legislators) in one of its recent annual conferences, offered a primer to state “child support professionals’ titled CS 101. In that conference, the NCSL suggests that the best way to encourage fathers to pay support is to
1) Restrict driver licenses
2) Require employers to report all new hires to the child support agency.
3) Take aggressive approach such as booting the cars of fathers in arrears, or by publishing a “most wanted” list of deadbeat dads.
They were concerned, they said, with the basic issue of fairness among parents. Give us a break.
The regressive one-sided approach to this issue ignores credible research on the issue of nonpayment of child support. Sanford Braver, an ASU professor who studies the economics of the family found, in one study, that the main reason for nonpayment of child support among men is unemployment. And in a recent study, the US Census Bureau found two-thirds of custodial mothers admitted that fathers did not pay because they were unemployed. It is high time we wake up and take a good hard look a system that produces the outcome in the Willie Gary case. The problem is not deadbeat dads, but rather unrealistic, crushing sums of money fathers are forced to pay in the name of child support.
You can read the record in Willie Gary child support case; Gary v Gowns, cv108224/2005 in Fulton County Court Ga.