News

Federal judge forces Rison into bankruptcy

By Ron Fonger

FLINT — A federal judge has forced Flint native and former NFL star Andre Rison into bankruptcy because of overdue child support debts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Daniel S. Opperman issued an order Wednesday forcing Rison into chapter 11, a move that should give the mothers of Rison’s children first crack at what remains of a $100,000 severance paid to the former all-pro by the Oakland Raiders.

If that news wasn’t bad enough for Rison, a graduate of then Flint Northwestern High School, the court-appointed receiver who has dogged him for years looking for hidden assets that could satisfy child support debts, said Monday he now wants to be appointed trustee in the bankruptcy case.

A trustee will help determine — with or without Rison’s help — whether he has assets to liquidate and the extent of his child support and other debts, said receiver David Findling.

“The bankruptcy trustee picks up where I left off,” Findling said. “I’d like to … I intend to be (the trustee)… . We will be doing some sleuthing.”

Three creditors tied to two child support cases against Rison filed the petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Flint last month, claiming they are collectively owed more than $105,000 in fees and child support, including a $58,435 claim from ex-wife Tonja Rison.

One of the three creditors — Atlanta attorney Randall Kessler — said he’s not surprised the filing was necessary.

Kessler claims Rison owes him attorney fees of $46,215 for his work collecting child support for Raycoa Handley, a Flint native who is the mother of two of Rison’s other children.

“(An involuntary bankruptcy) only makes sense,” Kessler said in an e-mail Monday. “Everything about getting Mr. Rison to pay has been involuntary.

“We had to have the court order him incarcerated over and over to get the child support he owed so it is no surprise that he must now be forced into bankruptcy to collect the balance of what is owed. If he had ever simply contacted us and asked how we could work it out, we would have been done a long time ago.”

The Flint Journal could not reach David Kallman, a Lansing attorney who has represented Rison, for comment Monday. It’s uncertain where Rison is living, but notice of the bankruptcy filing was sent to three separate addresses, including a home in Mt. Morris Township and addresses in Oakland, Calif., and Alpharetta, Ga.

According to papers filed in the bankruptcy case, the Raiders withheld part of the Rison severance to pay taxes and deposited the remaining amount with a California court.

The team then asked the court to decide which creditors should receive the money, Findling said. The bankruptcy filing now moves the child support debts to the top of the payment list, he added.

Rison was a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who last played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in August 2005.

He told The Flint Journal in February that he was busy with music and film projects.


Federal judge forces Rison into bankruptcy

By Ron Fonger

FLINT — A federal judge has forced Flint native and former NFL star Andre Rison into bankruptcy because of overdue child support debts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Daniel S. Opperman issued an order Wednesday forcing Rison into chapter 11, a move that should give the mothers of Rison’s children first crack at what remains of a $100,000 severance paid to the former all-pro by the Oakland Raiders.

If that news wasn’t bad enough for Rison, a graduate of then Flint Northwestern High School, the court-appointed receiver who has dogged him for years looking for hidden assets that could satisfy child support debts, said Monday he now wants to be appointed trustee in the bankruptcy case.

A trustee will help determine — with or without Rison’s help — whether he has assets to liquidate and the extent of his child support and other debts, said receiver David Findling.

“The bankruptcy trustee picks up where I left off,” Findling said. “I’d like to … I intend to be (the trustee)… . We will be doing some sleuthing.”

Three creditors tied to two child support cases against Rison filed the petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Flint last month, claiming they are collectively owed more than $105,000 in fees and child support, including a $58,435 claim from ex-wife Tonja Rison.

One of the three creditors — Atlanta attorney Randall Kessler — said he’s not surprised the filing was necessary.

Kessler claims Rison owes him attorney fees of $46,215 for his work collecting child support for Raycoa Handley, a Flint native who is the mother of two of Rison’s other children.

“(An involuntary bankruptcy) only makes sense,” Kessler said in an e-mail Monday. “Everything about getting Mr. Rison to pay has been involuntary.

“We had to have the court order him incarcerated over and over to get the child support he owed so it is no surprise that he must now be forced into bankruptcy to collect the balance of what is owed. If he had ever simply contacted us and asked how we could work it out, we would have been done a long time ago.”

The Flint Journal could not reach David Kallman, a Lansing attorney who has represented Rison, for comment Monday. It’s uncertain where Rison is living, but notice of the bankruptcy filing was sent to three separate addresses, including a home in Mt. Morris Township and addresses in Oakland, Calif., and Alpharetta, Ga.

According to papers filed in the bankruptcy case, the Raiders withheld part of the Rison severance to pay taxes and deposited the remaining amount with a California court.

The team then asked the court to decide which creditors should receive the money, Findling said. The bankruptcy filing now moves the child support debts to the top of the payment list, he added.

Rison was a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver who last played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in August 2005.

He told The Flint Journal in February that he was busy with music and film projects.


Debts, fees could force Rison into bankruptcy court

The Flint Journal

Former Flint Northwestern and NFL star Andre Rison could be forced into bankruptcy because of overdue child support debts. Three creditors tied to two child support cases against Rison have filed an involuntary petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Flint, claiming they are collectively owed more than $105,000 in fees and child support, including a $58,435 claim from ex-wife Tonja Rison.

Filed May 9, the case could help move Rison’s child support debts ahead of other creditors who are positioning themselves to tap into a $100,000 severance paid by the Oakland Raiders, the last NFL team Rison played for, said David Findling, a receiver appointed to recover child support from Rison.

Findling said Rison still hasn’t been served with a summons in the bankruptcy case. The Flint Journal could not reach David Kallman, a Lansing attorney who has represented Rison, for comment Wednesday.

According to papers filed in the case, the Raiders withheld part of the severance to pay taxes and deposited the remaining amount with a California court. The Raiders asked the court to decide who should receive the money, Findling said. The bankruptcy filing could bring the money back to Michigan and make repayment of child support debts the top priority, he added.

Rison, a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, most recently played professional football for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League but was released by the team in August 2005. The Web site www.andrerison.com says Rison was trying out for several arena football teams one year ago, but the site’s news section hasn’t been updated since. Rison told The Flint Journal in February that he was busy with music and film projects and appeared on Spike TV’s “Pros vs. Joes” series.

Problems with child support have dogged Rison for years, landing him in jail for nearly a month in 2004 for failing to pay child support. He was released after agreeing to restart payments, but in addition to Tonja Rison’s claim for child support, Atlanta attorney Randall Kessler also claims Rison still owes him attorney fees of $46,215 for his work collecting child support for Raycoa Handley, a Flint native who is the mother of two of Rison’s other children.


Amid sand and Kevlar, judge is far from bench

Randy Kessler quoted about Fulton County Judge

By Greg Land, Staff Reporter
SPICES. In addition to his family and friends, that’s what Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. L. Glanville misses most.

“Our food over here, as much as it’s very healthy, is kind of light on the seasoning,” said Glanville by telephone from his billet in Kuwait. “I miss a lot of seasoned food.”

The judge—or Lt. Col. Glanville, U.S. Army Reserve, as he is more properly known these days—shipped out in late January to serve as staff judge advocate assigned to the 335th Theater Signal Command, based in East Point.

On his first assignment to the Persian Gulf, the former Fulton magistrate who was elected Superior Court judge in 2004, said he performs a range of duties, from counseling commanders on the legal ramifications of military operations to consulting with soldiers who may be struggling with family or financial problems back home.

“There is no typical day,” said Glanville, who oversees a staff of lawyers. “You kind of do what the mission dictates; that might include giving out all types of advice on any number of issues related to personnel, military justice, contracting, counter-insurgency operations—any number of things a commander may have need of. We give the full range of legal services.”

Glanville said he handles “a little bit” of criminal work, “but my command primarily does a lot of commercialization, so I answer a lot of fiscal law [questions] and do a lot of coordination with other staff sections to make sure that our projects are properly funded and planned and executed. It’s a lot different an experience for me.”

In some ways, said the 44-year-old jurist, his work is similar to that of a general-practice attorney in the States.

“Both the military and civilian systems have one goal: to provide due process to the individual,” he said. “How they go about doing that is where the differences lie, and the military has a totally separate way of handling issues of criminality and administrative processes, as well.”

His judicial experience, he said, seldom comes into play.

“I don’t do any judging,” he said. “In the military, we have a separate branch of folks that do that, a detail of military judges. I’m a staff judge advocate, so I’m the chief lawyer for our signal company command.”

While he spends most of his days at Camp Arifjan, a sprawling base south of Kuwait City, Glanville said his duties sometimes require him to gear up for forays off-base or to sites in combat zones.

“I do have to go out on missions, and put on my equipment like any other soldier: my [individual body armor]–that’s the stuff that has the armor plates inside it—and my Kevlar and other equipment,” he said. “I’ve been to Afghanistan already, so you need that to fly over there.”

His spice cravings aside, the base offers some comforts of home, said Glanville.

“We have pool tables, pingpong, computers and a phone center where you can make morale calls,” he said. “And we have Starbucks, a KFC, and a food court with Pizza Hut and Robin Hood sandwiches—a lot of the same stuff you’d expect back stateside.”

He tries to stay in contact with his wife, Lisa, a program manager for the Fulton County Juvenile Courts, and his children, 15-year-old Evan and 12-year-old Leslie, as much as possible, said Glanville.

“With my being gone, she’s very, very busy. Evan plays golf, and my daughter sings and acts, so she’s always running.”

Lisa Glanville agreed.

“From a physical perspective, at the end of the day I’m exhausted,” she said. “But from an emotional perspective, I’m exhilarated that he’s able to do what he’s doing. And the children are so proud of their father.”

They particularly look forward to the phone calls from Kuwait, she said, which come at least twice a week.

Lisa Glanville, who has worked with the juvenile courts for a year and a half, formerly worked as a grant administrator with the Ryan White Program for HIV-positive children, and now spends her days overseeing programs aimed at drug treatment and intervention for children at risk of criminal behavior.

Then she takes up her parenting duties.

“I’ll say one thing,” she said, “my hat’s off to those single parents who are able to do this all the time.”

In addition to the strain on his family, Glanville also worried about his colleagues at the courthouse.

Upon receiving his new assignment, he said, “I was torn, because I certainly love the opportunity to serve in this capacity, but my colleagues had to pick up the slack, and a lot of my cases were redistributed. I just wanted a smooth transition in the court’s service.”

Not to worry, said Judge Christopher S. Brasher, who picked up some of Glanville’s civil cases upon his departure.

“Lots of folks on this bench (and Judge Henry Newkirk on the State Court Bench, as well) have tried to do our small part to keep the court’s business—and those cases assigned to Judge Glanville—moving, while he is in Kuwait serving our country,” wrote Brasher in an e-mail.

The rest of Glanville’s caseload was divided among Senior Judge Alice D. Bonner and Judge Stephanie B. Manis, according to Court Administrator Judith Cramer. The judges don’t view the additional cases as a burden, said Brasher.

“What a small price for us to pay, while he and his family pay a much larger one,” he said.

Glanville said he also seeks input from local lawyers as he works to assist his fellow soldiers.

Family law specialist Randy M. Kessler said he is among those Glanville has called upon, and considers it a privilege to help out.

“He has called me from Kuwait to help keep various family law disputes from too negatively affecting the lives of men and women while they are serving our country overseas, while at the same time trying to ensure that the families back home are cared for,” said Kessler, who characterizes Glanville as “one of the most genuine, honest and caring individuals I know.”

Glanville, who is due back the second week in May, said he has heard about the pollen blanket that recently afflicted Atlanta, and is not sorry to have missed it.

“On the other hand,” he said, “I have sand that blows all the time, and whenever that blows up, we’re all told to stay inside, so it’s probably the same effect.”

In any event, he said, he is eager to get back to “my family and friends and colleagues, and the city I love so much. But I’m happy to serve; there are worse places to be, and the service of one’s country is very important.”


Custody Case No Slam Dunk for Dr. J’s Son

By Greg Land

JUDGES IN GEORGIA and Pennsylvania are trying to sort out which state has jurisdiction in a dispute over the grandchildren of former basketball great Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

At issue are the 6-year-old and 3-year-old children of Philadelphia resident Kira Clifford and Julius Erving III, who calls himself “J.” One thorny question is whether a Fayette County judge’s order demanding that Clifford return to Georgia with the children is binding.

Attorney Randall M. Kessler, who is representing the younger Erving along with Mark J. Issa, said Clifford moved from Philadelphia to Fayetteville last August with the two kids. A month later Erving followed, relocating his music and entertainment management business to Atlanta.

Erving, 32, said in an interview that he had given Clifford, with whom he had lived until about three years ago, $50,000 toward a house and $3,400 a month “on time, every month.”

On Jan. 5, Clifford filed for determination of paternity in Fayette Superior Court, seeking a permanent order for child support and insurance for the children. That case is Kira Clifford v. Julius Erving III, No. 2007V-0017E.

In his response, Erving acknowledged paternity and agreed to allow the court to set the terms.

“Our lawyers were communicating trying to work out a settlement,” said Erving, “and we got to the point where we had basically shaken hands on an agreement and were ready to ink a deal.”

A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 23 but, according to Kessler, was cancelled the day before because both sides were in settlement negotiations and about to reach an agreement.

“The following weekend, she said there was a funeral in Philly she wanted to go to,” said Erving. “So I said fine. That was the 27th of February.”

On March 2, Clifford and the children left for Philadelphia and have never returned, despite a March 9 order by Fayette County Superior Court Chief Judge Paschal A. English Jr. demanding that Clifford bring the children back.

Once back in Pennsylvania, said Kessler, Clifford asked a Philadelphia court for an emergency ruling on jurisdiction, said Kessler. “A hearing was set for last week, and our client was never even served,” said Kessler.

Clifford’s local counsel, Atlanta sole practitioner Deanna H. Powell, said her client did not wish to discuss the case or allow her attorneys to do so.

Powell also expressed concern that the matter was being discussed publicly.

“I try my cases in court,” she said.

Shiel G. Edlin, who chairs the State Bar of Georgia’s family law section, said the case is “tremendously complex” due to the short time the children were in Georgia, and because of Clifford’s return to Pennsylvania after filing here.

“[The children] were here less than six months, so the court’s not going to see Georgia as home,” he said. “[But] you can’t just file suit and run; I’d be interested to hear her reasons for leaving … the court’s going to take a dim view of that.”

Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox is expected to issue an order in the matter, said Kessler, after she and English decide which court has jurisdiction. English did not respond to a call for comment by press time, and Fox is on vacation, said her clerk.

According to Kessler, both Georgia and Pennsylvania are signatories to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which lays out the process for reaching just such a decision.

“This type of case is exactly why Georgia adopted the UCCJEA,” said Kessler. “There’s been nothing filed in Georgia to ask the judge to move the case at all; I don’t think there’s even a legal basis for the court to consider transferring or dismissing the case, because in Georgia, the last document filed was the order for her to come back down here with the children. There’s been no request by [Clifford’s] Georgia lawyers for J. to go to Philadelphia; there’s not even been a request by the out-of-state lawyers for us to come up there …

“The law is very clear that this case should be heard in Georgia,” he said. “The UCCJEA gives ‘home state’ jurisdiction priority, and [Clifton] filed her motion for paternity and visitation here first, so Georgia obviously had jurisdiction first.”

By filing in Georgia, said Erving’s Philadelphia attorney, Saul Levit, “[Clifford] has already picked her jurisdiction.”


Sears taking marriage message to New York

Chief Justice took on issue when she saw domestic cases dominate dockets

By ALYSON M. PALMER
AS LEAH WARD SEARS prepared for a lecture she will give this week on her “strengthening marriage” initiative, organizers of the New York University School of Law event said alumini had a question.

Was her speech about gay marriage?

Sears, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, is familiar with the issue; re-election challengers in 1998 and 2004 used some of her writings to paint her as a gay rights candidate. But in her speech, the only thing she planned to say about gay marriage was that her initiative is not about gay marriage.

Sears acknowledged last week that some people may think she’s taken on the mantle of encouraging marriage and two-parent families for political reasons.

“I’m not in it for a political thing at all,” she said in an interview in her chambers, “because I really care about this.”

Besides, she added, she’s taken some hits for embracing the issue of encouraging marriage. “It’s become politically correct not to talk about family dysfunction,” she said.

Sears said she has had trouble getting people to take her work seriously.

When she first became chief in 2005, Sears started making comments on the issue but sensed the media viewed it as something light, so she pulled back.

The results of her subsequent behind-the-scenes efforts were the creation of a court Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law last summer and the drafting of a white paper on the breakdown of families and the ensuing cost to the state.

Sears said that she began looking at the issue when, as part of her assessment process upon becoming chief, she examined caseload statistics. According to the white paper, 65 percent of all civil cases heard at the superior court level in Georgia involve issues regarding families and children—outnumbering not only all other civil cases but all criminal cases, as well.

But she’s not just talking about costs to the state resulting from divorce. She highlights statistics on out-of-wedlock births, particularly among the black population. She calls marriage “one of the best anti-poverty programs we have going.”

Now she’s taking what she says is a serious message to a serious audience. Thursday night, she’ll be the speaker at the annual Justice William J. Brennan Jr. lecture on state courts and social justice at NYU.

Acting like a lawyer preparing for oral argument, Sears said she planned to give her speech the moot-court treatment—getting her law clerks to ask tough questions so she can refine the speech if her message is not getting through.

Sears said that after the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by her entitled “A Case for Strengthening Marriage” last October, she got negative feedback from “northeastern” professors. Some people thought she was trying to make things more “Ozzie and Harriet,” she said.

Not so, she said. “I tell people we’re not trying to take families back to the ’50s” such that women can’t get divorced.

Sears, who has been divorced and is remarried, is careful to say she’s not judging those whose marriages may have failed and wants to encourage not marriage at any price but healthy, stable marriages. “I’m not a Cro-Magnon,” she said. “I don’t want to condemn anybody … but we’ve gone too far in the other direction.”

She’s ready with a quick answer to anyone who might have qualms about her efforts on the grounds that it’s more government meddling in intimate relationships: “That would be fine if they didn’t ask [the government] to meddle in their lives when things go bust … we just want to encourage them to make it healthy,” she said.

There’s also a note in the commission white paper indicating a sensitivity toward domestic violence issues, saying the commission “in no way seeks to encourage abusive or other unhealthy relationships.”

“I say you ought to run [if] you find yourself in a relationship where there’s abuse or addiction,” she said.

Sears said she’s limited in what she can do because of the branch of government in which she sits. For example, Sears doesn’t have a position on waiting periods for no-fault divorce—“other than it would be nice if they were studied” by the Legislature or her group.

But she said the commission can highlight the problems and educate lawyers and judges. Officially, the commission’s goals as set forth in the white paper are to identify steps the judicial system could take to increase the proportion of children being raised by their married mothers and fathers, reduce the statewide domestic relations caseload, establish measurements for whether goals for child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency cases are being met, improve the quality of legal representation in juvenile court cases and expedite the appeals process for termination of parental rights matters.

The commission is comprised of more than 30 judges, professors, lawyers, business people, legislators and other state officials. Sears said the commission already has met and will spend its first six months learning about the issues. It’s set to meet again March 16.

Randall M. Kessler, an Atlanta family lawyer not on the commission, said good family law practitioners want people to get along, and Sears is on the right track with her idea of promoting education and counseling.

“But,” he said, “some marriages just aren’t meant to be.”


Child Support Changes Go Into Effect in State

Law bars stampede to court, but may motivate parents to seek new orders

By ALYSON M. PALMER
NEW CHILD SUPPORT guidelines went into effect Monday, but that’s not supposed to provide a basis for parents to seek modification of child support orders.

Legislation passed in 2005 said the adoption of the new rules was itself a reason for a parent to ask for a new child support order. But under the law signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue last spring, a parent must show a substantial change in financial circumstances or the needs of the child to justify a change in support.

Nonetheless, said Atlanta domestic relations attorney Randall M. Kessler of Kessler, Schwarz & Solomiany, parents who arguably have changes in circumstances that would allow a modification may have more impetus to seek a new order than they had under the old guidelines.

“There’s more motivation to go back to court,” he said, “because it used to be we’d say, ‘You’re not going to get that much of a reduction.’”

That doesn’t necessarily mean more cases will go to trial, Kessler and other practitioners said. As before, many of those actions for modification may be settled.

But the upshot of the new law is that high-income parents will pay less in support than they did under the old rules, said Kessler, while some people in lower income brackets may pay slightly more. And that has parents who pay child support calling their lawyers to see if they might get a break under the new rules.

The bills that changed the rules are long and complicated. At the heart of the legislation is a shift to what’s called an “income shares” model, which considers the income of both parents. Under the previous system, child support obligation was calculated as a set percentage of the payor parent’s income based on the number of children to be supported.

Now the combined income of both parents will be plugged into a statutory table to determine how much support the child needs, with the noncustodial parent to pay a pro rata share of that support corresponding to the parent’s share of the combined parental income. Health insurance and work-related child care costs are then factored in.

While the prior law said that “special circumstances” could provide a basis for a support award different from that calculated under the statutory percentage, the new law allows for specified “deviations” from the calculated pro rata share, such as travel expenses.

The General Assembly passed sweeping legislation switching to the income share model in April 2005. Republican backers of the legislation said that it would remedy inequities in the old system that placed too great a financial burden on noncustodial mothers and fathers. Critics called it a “mad dad” bill that would hurt women.

A new version approved by the Legislature and Perdue the following spring did away with some significant elements of the legislation. In addition to providing that the new legislation itself was not a basis for a modification of support, the 2006 bill eliminated specified reductions in child support based on the number of days the noncustodial parent spent with the child each year.

Because the new rules apply not just to cases filed after Monday but also to previously filed cases that didn’t reach final judgment before that date, parents seeking a modification under the new rules have already begun to file lawsuits, said Kessler, who is editor of the State Bar’s Family Law Review. He said he had clients who had already done so—and already settled the matter.

Catherine M. Knight of Boyd Collar Knight in Atlanta said she’d been getting calls about modifications. “But it’s not a hurry, because the new law’s not going away,” she said, explaining that there was time to run the numbers and see if a request for modification would be worth the effort.

The law has caused a bit of a rush on another front, however, she said. Knight said Thursday that she had been getting calls from panicked lawyers all over the state worried that child support settlement agreements might be subject to renegotiation under the new rules if they were not signed by a judge before the close of 2006. “Some judges are really scrambling to try to get everybody in because they don’t want to reopen the deals,” she said.

Knight said that while there may be more litigation over requests for modification of orders—both those entered under the old law and those rendered under the new—cases may be settled at the same rate as before.

For those who want to go to court, she said, the deviations provided for under the new law will provide a basis for argument. “The people who will want to argue are still going to argue,” she said, “but often appropriately so, because the deviations are a meaningful part of the guidelines. There are good reasons to deviate, often.”

Kessler also said he didn’t think there would necessarily be more people going to trial over child support issues under the new law. Human nature won’t change, he said, and someone who’s averse to fighting in court will still feel that way, with uncertainties in the law breeding settlement.

On the other hand, said Kessler, the new law provides something for those who want to fight. “Whenever there are more words in a statute, there’s more to fight over,” he said.

“There definitely are people who are on a mission, who really feel like they’ve been wronged,” he continued, “and those people are going to be at the forefront of the litigation.”

How judges will handle the allowed deviations is one of the big question marks hanging over the new statute, said Athens attorney John F. Lyndon, a member of the executive committee of the State Bar’s Family Law Section.

Specifically, Lyndon wondered whether judges would pay little attention to the deviations—“a lot of us have felt that they didn’t pay much attention to the special circumstances” under the old law, he said—or would use the allowed deviations as a way to make awards at levels similar to those given under the old law.

“I think a lot of it is going to depend on how the judges are applying them, and I think that we will get some consistency in how the judges do apply them. … so I don’t think it’s necessarily going to increase litigation,” he said.


Kessler Involved in High-Profile Child Support Case

WILLIE GARY persuaded judge to cut child support from $336K a year to $60K

By ALYSON M. PALMER

COURT DOCUMENTS don’t say whether high profile attorney Willie Gary flew to Atlanta for court proceedings on his Boeing 737, which has a gold-plated sink, or the original “Wings of Justice,” his slight-less-luxurious Gulfstream. But the shadow of Gary’s wealth hover over the lengthy appeal just file by the mother of his twins, whose $336,000 annual child-support payments were slashed last year to a mere $60,000 a year – plus tuition for the twins’ private school – by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthiea Wright.

In an Oct. 30 application for discretionary review, Gary’s lifestyle – fueled by his $1 million – plus monthly income – is compared against the fairly plush circumstances to which his former paramour, Diana Gowins, has become accustomed as she raises her children with Gary and a teenage daughter by another man.

“The question of how much a man who makes more than a million dollars a month should pay to raise his children is important,” said Gowins’ attorney, Randall M. Kessler. Gary remains married to the mother of his adult children, said Kessler, ‘and his other children presumably had a very nice life before leave home.Fulton judge

His client’s twins, a boy and a girl, should enjoy a similarly sumptuous lifestyle, said Kessler, pointing to a section of Georgia’s child-support law describing the “state policy of affording to children of unmarried Parents, to the extent possible, the same economic standard of living enjoyed by children living in intact families consisting of Parents with similar financial means.”

Under the terms of the child-support decree finalized in April 2005, Gary agreed to pay Gowins $28,000 a month for upkeep for the twins, who were born in 2000. He also agreed to provide the down payment on a home, pre-pay the cost of a four year college education for both children, and kick in a lump-sun payment of $175,000 for “the support and maintenance of the twins.”

Gowins was awarded sole custody of the children, and Gary – chairman of the Atlanta – based Black Family Channel – has never sought visitation, according to the filings.Gary Kessler

The two originally reached a similar settlement filed in Walker County in 2002, but that agreement was declared unenforceable when the court learned that neither Gary nor Gowins lived in Walker, and had only filed there to – in a rare departure for the flamboyant Gary – avoid publicity.

Bust last November, Gary – whose estimated net worth was more than $60 million in the 2005 filings – petitioned Wright to revisit the terms of his child-support agreement, asserting that Gowins was receiving far more child-support than necessary and was mismanaging the money. According to Gary’s complaint, the twins mother was using Gary’s money to send all three of her children to tony Woodward Academy and build up her own net worth.

The complaint said Gowins “sqandered the child support, illegally applied for welfare, and received Medicaid and food stamps.”

Gary asked that his monthly payments be dropped to $5,000 a month. On Sept 29, in a somewhat terse order, Wright complied. The case was Gary v Gowins, No. 2005CV108224.

“Mother’s spending habits are of concern to the Court,” wrote Write, noting that Gowins “frequently incurred overdraft charges and past due fees {and} exhibits a pattern of borrowing finds from friends to carry her until the next support check arrives.”

Wright also pointed to Gowins’ “extensive renovation to her residence” that raised the appraised value of the South Atlanta home form $533,000 in 2004 to more than $600,000 last December. She also refinanced her house at a higher interest rate to purchase a condo at Atlantic Station as an investment property, and was only dissuaded from that move by her attorney after Gary filed his action.

A $200,000 investment in a development company netted Gowins as $100,000 profit “from funds Father provided in the form of child support and other funds directly provided her by him for the purchase of a residence and child support,” Wright said.

The judge also criticized Gowin’s refusal to contribute to her own upkeep.

“The Court finds that Mother is in good health and that she is physically, mentally and emotionally capable of full-time-employment.” wrote Wright. Yet, despite a college degree and having worked as a nurse, “Mother unequivocally testified that she has absolutely no intention of obtaining a job, …”

“There is no impediment to Mother finding employment except for her stated desire not to go back into the workplace,” wrote Wright.

Gary’s attorney, Kenneth H. Schatten said Gowins’ “adamant refusal to even make an effort” to rein in her spending spurred Gary to seek to a reduction of what Schatten believed to be the largest child-support award in Georgia history.

“Sure, he’s got the money,” said Schatten.

“Her problem, really is that she was spending a lot of money on herself and her 13 year old, and not using it for the twins. It was not Mr. Gary’s responsibility to support someone else’s child and buy [Gowins] the Taj mahal.”

Schatten points out that Gowins, who met Gary in 2000 when she was in the running for a slot at an Olympic Heptathlon berth, is “healthy as a horse; she just refuses to work.”

She shouldn’t have to, countered Kessler.

“Just like a married couple, where one provider can earn $1 million a month, it makes more sense to have the other one staying at home to raise the children. Of all the children in the world, shouldn’t these twins have a stay-at-home mom?”

Kessler also said the benefits to Gowins’ other child are appropriate.

“I agree that the other child undoubtedly gets a windfall because of her circumstances,” he said. “So what? You can’t put her in a closet and abandon her.”

In his appeal petition, Kessler asserts that, under Georgia law, Wright had no reason to reopen the settlement agreement at all because there had been no “substantial change” in either party’s income requited to modify a child-support agreement.
“The court decided that she was getting more money than she needed,” said Kessler. “But that’s not the argument to at modification hearing: the court id making a value judgment.”


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Don’t Fear New Child Support Rules

Don't Fear New Child Support Article