There is a disturbing case out of Orlando, Florida involving a curious ruling on child support. John Nelson is a father who had lost his six-figure salary as a software executive. Nelson secured a lower paying job as a teacher to support himself and pay his child support. He waited a year to get a hearing before Family law Judge Julian Piggotte to reduce his $2200 monthly payments in light of his lower income. Instead, Piggotte increased the payments and left Nelson with just $200 a month to survive. She then recused herself because her husband works with Nelson’s ex-wife at the state attorney’s office.
While it is the best interest of the children that guide these decisions, I fail to see how forcing a father to live on the street advances those interests. The result is often a failure to pay and incarceration. We have seen similar thoughtless decisions in the past, here. This is a father who has found a new job and is working to pay child support. The response of the court appears to disregard the equities and realities of the case. It is particularly disturbing when the recusal follows such a draconian result.
If there is more to this story, I would be interested to learn about it. On its face, it looks pretty bad. I fail to see how a court can leave a man with just $50 a month. I can see if the reduction is only temporary, but it seems like there has to be some appreciation for such financial changes — unless the court viewed Nelson as hiding funds.
If Piggotte believed that she has no discretion in the matter, then state law needs to be changed. If there is discretion (and there usually is) the decision needs to be reexamined due to both the harsh result and the appearance of a conflict.
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