Kessler Involved in High-Profile Child Support Case

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


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.”