From the Atlanta Constitution Journal…
Lawyer defends his monthly $14K child payments
By STEVE VISSER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/14/08
Renowned trial lawyer Willie Gary had a very personal case before the Georgia Supreme Court Monday.
And for a publicity savvy lawyer, it was clear that this was one case he wanted to avoid scrutiny because it dealt with back child support and a legal blunder — his own.
“I’m trying not to try this case in the press,” he said, and then added with a rueful smile, ” because it’s mine.”
Gary, who is married with four adult children, fathered twins with Atlanta-resident Diana Gowins during what is described as a brief relationship when Gowins was living in the lawyer’s home state of Florida.
“She was in Florida training for the 2000 Olympics and she was looking for him to sponsor her,” said Robert Moss, Gowins’ lawyer.
The twins were born November of that year.
The two reached an out-of-court agreement that states he is to pay child support of $14,000 a month per child but Gary contends that when he signed the document he only meant to agree to $14,000 a month total.
That legal misstep has sparked nearly four years of trial court rulings, contempt charges, and appellate rulings.
Gowins contends $28,000 a month is pocket change for a guy who according to court papers pays $150,000 to maintain his personal Boeing 737 and estimated his personal fortune to be $60 million in 2003.
But Gary argues in court papers that Gowins “had misused, misappropriated and wasted the money he had given her.”
He said he paid $500,000 for support payments, college tuition funds, a new house, and child medical payments by 2005 but at that time only $25 remained in the bank for his children.
Gary contends that Gowins agreed the payment should only be $14,000 monthly, plus payments for specific items from the signing of their agreement in 2002 until Gowins filed a paternity suit to enforce the agreement’s actual language in 2004.
In 2005, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Wright granted Gowins $28,000 in monthly child support.
So far, Gary has lost most of the legal fights with either the trial judge or appellate judges siding with Gowins.
Right now, the high court has to decide whether Wright can force Gary to pay nearly $600,000 in back payments Gowins contends he owes her.
As most deadbeat dads know, a judge can jail them if they don’t pay child support. The Gary case is complicated by the fact that while Wright has previously ruled that Gary has to pay the $28,000 a month, she said she could not jail him for nonpayments before her 2005 order. The Georgia Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and ruled Wright had that power.
Gary appealed to the Supreme Court. Gowins appeared confident Monday that the high court would decide in her favor.
“He is doing what he wants to do, not what the courts have asked him to do,” she said of her short-time lover.
Gary won a brief victory in 2006 when Wright, apparently fed up with Gowins’ spending, reduced the child support payments to $5,000 a month, plus $2500 a month for private school. The judge had previously chastised Gowins about her spending and suggested she get a job. Gowins told the court she had the right to be a stay-at-home mom.
But the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling last November.
Gary’s lawyers had won the lower payment party by arguing Gowins had made $95,000 through investing the support money.
“The irony is that they had earlier argued that she had squandered that money and lost the investment,” Moss said. “She made some terrific investments and now they’re trying to use the good investment against her.”