Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes seems to be making an effort to put his problems behind him, but the troubled ballplayer certainly has not been a poster boy for fatherhood. Nevertheless, there’s something noteworthy about the latest in his financial battle with his ex-wife. From Dukes Faces Possible Jail Time for Legal Fees (Washington Post, 5/29/09):
Hillsborough (Fla.) Circuit Court Judge Mark Wolfe on Friday ordered that [Washington Nationals outfielder Elijah] Dukes, 24, must pay $39,767 in outstanding legal fees for his estranged wife’s attorneys. If he doesn’t make the payment by June 5 at 5 p.m., he could face 90 days in jail.
Dukes did not attend today’s hearing, which came after attorneys for NiShea Dukes filed a motion for civil contempt, a means to claim unpaid fees. Dukes, with a history of legal trouble, faced a similarly-sized debt — and a similar threat for jail time — in January. Then, however, he was responsible for some $40,000 in unpaid child support and alimony payments. Dukes avoided jail by making the payments. “He waited last time until the very last second to make the payment, and I’m sure this time will be no different,” said Rick Escobar, an attorney who represents NiShea Dukes… Dukes’s attorney, Grady Irvin, said that his client would make the payment and avoid jail time. The Nationals, who are paying Dukes $411,500 this season, currently deduct a monthly sum from his salary and allocate it for child support. NiShea Dukes has three children with Elijah… “Listen, Elijah is having a pretty good season,” Irvin said. “He is doing well. He is current on his child support. His wife, NiShea, will go to any length to smear him. She won’t even grant a divorce. Elijah has been trying to get a divorce. All this is over attorney’s fees. This is not child support. If Elijah Dukes isn’t paying child support, it’s a different story.”
I don’t know if Dukes’ attorney’s version of the story is accurate or not, but this business of jailing men for not paying their ex-wife’s attorneys’ fees is troubling for several reasons. One, of course, is that the attorneys’ task is usually to minimize the father’s role in his children’s lives as much as possible. Dads are thus compelled to pay to have someone demean them as fathers and drive them away from their children. Another is that when the attorney has a high-earner on the hook, he’ll drag the case out and pad his bills. Dukes’ attorney claims the ex-wife’s attorney is doing this here. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve certainly seen it in many cases. Readers may recall that this was an issue in the case of one Fathers & Families member whose case was recently profiled on the front page of the Boston Globe. The gentleman is in the real estate business and fell behind on his child support. He was jailed for 30 days for being behind on his child support and the money he owed his ex-wife’s attorney–to read more, click here.