GRAND RAPIDS -- After 13 years in prison, Larry Souter found out freedom isn't free: He owes $38,000 in back child support.Think about this story the next time you hear about some deadbeat dad. It may have been completely impossible for him to pay, and he will still get blamed.
Never mind that the debt accumulated while he was locked up, wrongly convicted of murder.
Souter, 53, was ordered to court Wednesday to explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt. If the hearing had not been postponed, his answer was simple: He was in prison before his second-degree murder conviction was overturned late last year. Prison wages barely covered necessities. ...
In 1987, Souter was ordered to pay $100 a week in his divorce with Christine Souter. He stopped paying when he went to prison in 1992, but didn't ask to have payments suspended until 1995.
Court documents show that in 1997, he owed $23,000 in back support. As of last month, interest and penalties had pushed it to $38,082.25.
Federal law prohibits judges from retroactively wiping out such debts, Souter's attorney, John Smietanka, said. ...
His ex-wife's attorney, David Sarnacki, wrote in court records that she "has endured the substantial burden of raising her two children without defendant's contribution of child support."
In this case, the mom has enjoyed the luxury of her freedom, and sole custody of the kids. The dad has been rotting in prison for a crime he did not commit. And yet it is the mom who is complaining about her "substantial burden" and demanding money. The children are grown, and they will not benefit, even if the dad could pay. So this case is not about supporting children. It is about punitive anti-father laws. She will win, because of the Bradley Amendment. He could escape a bad murder conviction, but he cannot escape a bad support judgment.