November 24, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The next time you hear someone pontificate that child support is “for the children,” remember this (Patch, 11/22/17).
And while you’re thinking about child support, think also about what brings it about, i.e. divorce. And while you’re thinking about divorce, don’t forget where that takes place, i.e. divorce court. Do all that because the case of Thomas Doheny is one of capital punishment by divorce court.
Do I overstate the matter? Judge for yourself.
Doheny was 48 when his wife decided to divorce him. He seems to have been pretty well-to-do, but however well off he was, it wasn’t enough for the court.
The Cary man who was found unresponsive in his McHenry County Jail cell Friday, Nov. 17, committed suicide amid overwhelming financial stress caused by court-ordered child support payments, according to a source close to the family. Thomas Doheny, 51, of Cary, was found by jail staff in his single-occupancy cell at about 8:10 p.m. Friday.
What seems to have happened is that, five years ago, Doheny was working and making good money. The court though set his child support at an amount even he couldn’t afford, so, over a couple of years (or possibly more), he ran up an arrearage of $20,000. He was desperate to get the amount lowered, so he returned to court with motions asking the judge to do so.
That’s nothing unusual. Countless fathers deal with the same type of situation every day. Here’s what’s special about Doheny:
The source claims that Judge Michael Coppedge, who presided over the case, failed to consider the information provided by Doheny and made it impossible for him to afford child support payments. Doheny was fired from his job as the result of having to make 260 court appearances in the last two years in attempts to lower the payments. The source said his company hired an attorney to keep up with all of the subpoenas his ex-wife sent.
You read that right. In two years, i.e. 730 days, Doheny was in court a mind-blowing 260 times. That’s more than once every three days. Subtract weekends and holidays and it’s closer to once every two days.
That of course means Doheny didn’t do much work for his employer who, into the bargain, had to hire a lawyer just to keep up with all the subpoenas issued by Doheny’s ex.
Now, to Judge Michael Coppedge, that was either all Doheny’s fault somehow or, in any event, nothing that should have prevented him from earning what he had before. Yes, he’d been fired. Yes, his firing wasn’t his fault, but his ex-wife’s. And yes, he couldn’t afford to pay what he’d been ordered to even if he had his old job. But Coppedge ignored all that and jailed Doheny for failure to pay.
Did he hold a hearing as he’s obligated to do according to Supreme Court precedent? Did he inquire into whether Doheny could pay what he owed or whether, if he couldn’t, his inability was self-induced, which it clearly wasn’t? Who knows, but it seems no such hearing was held. Instead,
"The judge just got upset and incarcerated him," the person [with knowledge of the case] said.
That’ll teach him.
So let’s sum up. A child no longer has a father, to say nothing of no longer having his financial support. In accordance with the law and his judicial training, a judge set child support at a level higher than the father could pay. Having set the father up to fail, the same judge was so dismissive of his real, everyday inability to pay that all he could think to do was throw the man in jail where he was even more unable to pay. The same judge ruled over a court in which demanding that a man show up in court one day out of two for two years seems to have been par for the course. Nor did the ex-wife’s subpoenas that were so numerous as to require an employer who had no part in the case to hire a lawyer to keep up with them seem amiss to the judge. And of course the father’s losing his job due solely to the incompetence and dysfunction of the court was simply attributed to him, not the court. Unable to see a way out, abused by his ex and the court, Thomas Doheny took his own life.
Apparently, We the People, who pay for those courts and judges are supposed to view all that as perfectly rational, a good way to make sure children are supported.
So tell me, is it overstating the matter to say that the system of divorce and child custody has blood on its hands?
Remember before you answer that it’s all for the kids.
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