Judge’s Child Support Ruling Goes Viral

_DSC4179 - Version 2Life isn’t always fair, but Carnell Alexander expected that a judge in Michigan would right the wrong. As he described it:

“How can you start a case with a lie? The mom lied. The process server lied. Now I have to pay for it.”

In 1987 a young woman gave birth to a child. In order to get welfare funds from the government she was obliged to fill out a form indicating who the father of her child was. She named Carnell Alexander as her child’s father.

She then filed a court action alleging he was the father and sought child support.

A process server was hired to personally deliver the court documents to him, as was required by law.

A court hearing took place but Carnell Alexander wasn’t there. He was in jail serving time for a juvenile offence.

Later in the early 90’s Carnell was checked in a routine traffic stop and advised there was a warrant for his arrest. The police officer told him he was a “deadbeat dad”.

You can imagine his surprise…he had never received notice of the paternity hearing as he was behind bars at the time, and he swore he had no children.

He began searching for the woman who had named him as father so he could prove he was not, through DNA testing, but his efforts failed until 2013 when a paternity test was administered.

With his grade 8 education and no assets or income, he could not afford a lawyer, but each occasion he went to court he repeated the refrain that he was not the child’s father.

But the government wanted him to pay arrears of child support of $30,000, so he showed up in court on his own expecting that justice would prevail. Boy, was he wrong!

Judge Kathleen McCarthy said she was “outraged that Mr. Alexander for two and a half decades failed to take this matter seriously.”

She said that Mr. Alexander should have filed documents protesting paternity years ago and because he did not, he must pay the support.

Yes, even though he had no notice, was not the father, and the child’s biological father was in his life, he must pay.

Feeling helpless, Mr. Alexander went to Michigan radio station WXYZ who broadcast his story.

And yes, Judge McCarthy was outraged about that too saying:

“I am outraged at the media for the willful misrepresentations of the facts of this case. Casting this court in a negative light.”

Due to the media exposure Carnell Alexander now has a pro bono lawyer, Cherika Harris, who has vowed to continue the fight for him.

As for Judge McCarthy, it is not the radio station that has cast a negative light on her court. She did that all on her own.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

A Clever Way to Collect Child Support

GEO#1Getting an order for child support is the first step and thankfully, for many children, also the last. Unfortunately, there are too many cases where a child support order is not worth the paper it’s written on because the paying parent refuses to pay despite the existence of a court order.

How do they get away with it? They move away and hide, they work under the table, they feign illness and swear they are unable to work, they retire prematurely, they commence custody proceedings in an attempt to have primary residence of their children, thus avoiding the payment of child support, and on and on.

Collecting child support from a scoundrel parent can be a futile exercise, one where time, emotion, and most of all, money is thrown away trying to obtain “blood from a stone”.

However, Beth Ann Holderman from Pennsylvania found a novel way to pursue the father of her child who had not paid one cent and owed $42,803 in child support arrears. She hired bounty hunter Scott Bernstein to lure Joshua Garlathy to leave his home in Maui and return to Pennsylvania so she could get him before a judge.

What trap did Bernstein set? He convinced Garlathy that he was up for a role in a movie starring Jennifer Aniston, that was filming in Pennsylvania. A plane ticket was sent to him and when he arrived at the airport, Mr. Bernstein had a film crew on hand who videotaped his arrival and arrest for a reality TV show about parents who refuse to pay child support.

Mr. Garlathy defended himself calling the Pennsylvania court system unfair and insisting that he survived on disability payments and food stamps as he suffered from arthritis, psoriasis and depression. He said he had $80 in his bank account and his only assets were a guitar and a saxophone. He refused to admit that he was working as a musician in Maui, asserting that he only played at open mike nights and received no income.

Suggesting that perhaps Mr. Garlathy lacked talent, Judge Kelly Banach found Mr. Garlathy in contempt of court for his failure to pay support and sentenced him to six months in county prison with a work release so that he could earn money in prison to pay the support owed. The judge also ordered Garlathy’s release from prison once he had paid of a minimum of $10,000. Criminal charges are pending against him as well.

For Mr. Garlathy to have fallen for this ploy he must have a tremendous ego. Imagine starring in a film with one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Update on Teen Who Sued Parents For Child Support

GEO#1Thankfully some common sense has been injected into the situation between New Jersey teen, Rachel Canning, and her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning. Rachel is the 18 year-old who didn’t like her parents’ house rules, moved in with a girlfriend, and ended up in a courtroom suing her parents, courtesy of her girlfriend’s father, a local Lincoln Park politician and….wait for it…..lawyer!

Rachel obtained a court order on March 5, 2014 that denied her the child support she was seeking, but set up a court process for the matter to proceed to trial with a pretrial hearing on April 22, 2014. It was reported that her benefactor, lawyer John Inglesino, has already spent $13,000 on legal fees on her behalf.

Judge Peter Bogaard’s order also included the suggestions that the parties be encouraged to explore the option of family counselling…no kidding?

Rachel’s lawsuit turned her into an international media pariah, savaged in the court of public opinion, a situation that greatly distressed her parents, who changed counsel after the original hearing.

It cannot be a coincidence that the Canning’s new lawyer, Angelo Sarno, announced yesterday that Rachel had returned home, much to her family’s joy. Mr. Sarno said “(This case) should never have been brought to the court’s attention. It should never have been brought to the public”.

However, after Rachel returned home, her lawyer, Tanya Helfand, ran into court seeking emergency orders to seal the court file and have a guardian appointed for Rachel, telling the court that Rachel was “pressured” to return home by her parents and was waiving her complaint with no promise of financial consideration.

Judge Bogaard denied Ms. Helfand’s application.

So what you have now appears to be a classic legal conundrum. On one side, a lawyer who supports his clients to leave the legal arena before the damage is so devastating there is no possibility of reconciliation between Rachel, her parents and her two younger sisters; matched with a lawyer who apparently wants to continue and even escalate the litigation.

I still don’t understand lawyers who ignore the future ramifications of court actions involving families…one of the reasons why family law matters need to be steered away from court and into mediation or arbitration, if no compromise can be reached.

Not surprisingly, lawyer Inglesino has also been the subject of derision for interfering with Rachel and her parents in a highly personal matter.

It looks like there is only one lawyer in this piece who is wearing a “white hat”…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Teen Who Doesn’t Like “House Rules” Sues Parents for Child Support

A New Jersey judge has shot down teenager Rachel Canning’s application that her parents pay her $654.00 a week in child support. (That’s over $2,600 a month!)

Depending upon who you believe, Rachel, age 18, says her parents kicked her out of their home in October 2013, two days before her 18th birthday. Her father, retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, Sean Canning, says his daughter, who is deeply loved, left on her own after deciding she didn’t like the “house rules”, which included being respectful, abiding by a curfew, and doing her share of household chores.

She now lives with relatives of her best friend and has been financially supported in her lawsuit by a local politician.

Rachel, an honour student who attends private Catholic School, Morris High, also sought her attorney’s fees and reimbursement for tuition owed by her since her parents stopped payments as of December 2013.

School authorities said they will continue her education despite non-payment.

Judge Peter Bogaard ruled that to make such an order would open the floodgates to disgruntled New Jersey teenagers and was “bad precedent”. He did, however, order the Canning’s to retain Rachel on their health insurance and to leave the college savings account intact.

Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, who was not involved in the case, opines on Fox News that our courts have no business interfering with parental decisions and that even dealing with health insurance and college savings usurps parental rights.

There will be a further hearing in April to determine her parents’ legal obligation to fund her college tuition.

Rachel took a drastic adult step in launching litigation against her family. I think she’s getting bad advice!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Wanna Work at Home and Make Thousands? Have a Baby!

IMG_0277In a crass, hard-hitting advertisement from El Paso Texas, lawyer Mark Davis has caught the attention of his target audience.

“Have a baby, get rid of the father and get the money, then spend the funds on “drinking, expensive restaurants and clubs”…..If this sounds familiar to you guys, please do give us a call. It isn’t a fair world, so even the odds and lawyer up!”

Mr. Davis apparently knows of what he speaks as he references a program in Texas where single mothers receive debit cards from the Texas child support enforcement program, the government agency that collects child support for parents in the state.

Davis points out that the debit card is as good as cash in any bar in El Paso or maybe the recipient would rather buy a gift for her new boyfriend. Not a problem.

On a more serious note, lawyer Davis decries overly generous child support orders, characterizing them as nothing more than a “cash grab”. He says he has one non-custodial client who is paying $1,400 per month for his six-month-old child, an amount he says is “impossible” to spend on an infant that young.

“Generally, the idea of child support is a good thing, people need to take care of their kids, but it’s so abused in the state of Texas,” Davis said. “I don’t mean to offend people by putting this poster out, but I do mean to wake people up to pay attention to what’s going on.

Meanwhile, a state representative confirms that custodial parents are issued debit cards and there is no check to determine whether the monies are spent on diapers or dinner out.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Steve Nash’s Child Support Dispute Turns Into PR Nightmare

GEO#1

British Columbia is proud of native son Steve Nash and rightly so. He shines for his athletic prowess, his philanthropic focus, and his entrepreneurship. An NBA all-star, his career has seen him play for Phoenix, Dallas and now, Los Angeles. He has an Order of Canada and received an honourary Doctorate in Law from the University of Victoria.

In 2001, Nash met his future wife, Alejandra Amarilla, in Manhattan. They married in June 2005 and had twin daughters, Lola and Bella, born in 2004, and then a son, Matteo Joel, born in 2010. On the day of his son’s birth, Nash made a statement to the press in which he announced his son’s birth, but called it a “bittersweet moment”, revealing that he and his wife had “lived separately for the past several months” and were “in the process of dissolving” their marriage.

Steve Nash’s marriage breakdown was just another celebrity split-up in an era where divorce announcements are as frequent as birth announcements and garnered a relatively modest amount of media attention.

However, Nash’s polished image is taking a trouncing as celebrity gossip websites announce that he and his former wife, Alejandro Amarilla, are engaged in a dispute about whether she can move with their three children from Phoenix, where the couple lived during their marriage, to Los Angeles, where Steve Nash now lives and works.

Stories circulating in the media include the allegation that Ms. Amarilla only wishes to leave Arizona so she can avail herself of what is described as California’s more generous child support laws.

The media has reported that while the children reside in Arizona, Mr. Nash is not obliged to pay child support and he is only resisting his ex-wife’s move to California so he can maintain the status quo.

Details are scarce and Mr. Nash’s advisors are keeping a low profile, however, it strains credulity to believe that Nash is a “deadbeat dad” as some twitter enthusiasts are suggesting.

What has emerged is that his ex-wife received a mult-million dollar divorce settlement, has her own financial resources, and Mr. Nash pays for the children’s education, medical and related expenses, extracurricular activities and the children’s nanny.

It is more likely that Nash’s opposition to the children’s move is because he understands that children need stability and certainty, which is what they have in Phoenix. Mr. Nash’s parents also live there. Finally, to move the children to follow their father in the waning years of his career may entail further transitions for the children as his playing days come to an end.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

BarristerSo, you’re just a regular guy doing your thing and you happen to come across a Craigslist ad where a lesbian couple want to have a baby and need a sperm donor. Because you’re such a good guy, you figure, what the heck, why not help them out?

They offer to pay you $50.00 but you say “hey, I’m not doing this for the money, keep your $50.00″. Of course, you sign an agreement waiving all your paternal rights so you can’t be on the hook down the road. Your good deed results in a bouncing baby girl.

Fast forward to today, the little girl is three-years old, and the couple have split up. An application is made for health insurance for the child and the Kansas Department for Child and Families won’t approve the application until the name of the sperm donor is provided.

Now our good guy is faced with a lawsuit brought by the government agency for child support of $6000.00 to cover past payments and a claim for ongoing support.

How can that be, you say? Doesn’t the agreement he signed protect him? Not according to the Kansas authorities. Kansas does not recognize same-sex couples as parents unless conception is through a licensed physician or clinic. They say they are obliged by the law to pursue the father for support payments.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang