Guest column: What to do about Corey Curtis?

Dec. 8, 2012  |  Comments
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Corey Curtis has nine kids by six different women and, if that weren't enough of a mess right there, he owes somewhere between $90,000 and $125,000 in unpaid child support.

That means those of us who spend most of our money trying to feed and clothe and educate our own kids are likely paying for his as well.

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Tim Boyle got so frustrated with the 44-year-old deadbeat the other day that he ordered Curtis not to have any more kids until he can support them, which makes the real parents among us instinctively stand up and cheer - and then worry that Boyle is actually going to find a way to enforce his order with a scalpel.

This, of course, isn't just about Curtis. There are a lot of Wisconsin sperm-donors out there, cheap or impoverished ones who owe $2.7 billion in unpaid debt to former spouses, families or hospitals for state-ordered support or maintenance or birth costs, according to the Department of Children and Families.

You want to take part in a really depressing exercise? The state has a so-called Child Support Lien Docket, an online registry containing the names of people who owe past-due child support. Just Google it. And then plug in any random name that pops into your head. You'll be astounded at how many men don't support their kids.

Corey Curtis isn't unique. All told, there are more than 137,000 liens listed on the site. (Some people have more than one.) There are over 30 guys just with the same last name he has who are also behind on payments, including three others who owe over $40,000. Don't even try plugging in Smith or Jones.

There's also a guy I remember well: John L. Brayshaw.

Six years ago, I wrote a couple columns about Brayshaw because he owed - and still owes - the family he abandoned in Washington County more than $260,000 in unpaid support. He's been in prison ever since and probably won't get out until 2016.

I called Brayshaw's ex-wife, who raised and supported their two kids on her own, and asked her what she thought about Judge Boyle's sentence in the Curtis case.

"Like that's going to do any good unless you are prepared to do something about it," said Diane Brayshaw. "Unless you order a vasectomy, that order (by Judge Boyle) is moot."

After we hung up, she sent an email elaborating. "When the judge opted to order the defendant to stop procreating, the order should have gone beyond simply directing the defendant to 'stop having children,'" she wrote. "If that means jail time, so be it. If that means offering the option for sterilization, I don't think that would be unreasonable."

A lot of people will agree with Boyle's order. Much as my impulse is to do the same at first blush, I can't.

As former Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes once wrote (in a dissent joined by her ideological opposite, Shirley Abrahamson), ordering people not to have kids is "basically a compulsory, state-sponsored, court-enforced financial test for future parenthood."

"I know of no authority for the proposition that the State can order that a child not be conceived or born, even to an abysmally irresponsible parent, unless the State first grants its consent."

Other justices found such orders constitutional. But there are a lot of Big Brother ramifications, and you have to worry that such policies could result in more abortions. Anyway, there's another way to prevent procreation: imprisonment.

It's not a perfect solution. Curtis already served about 18 months in 2006 and 2007 for non-payment of child support. And putting lots of other deadbeat dads behind bars for longer periods of time would be incredibly expensive.

So, though, is the everlasting mess guys like him are leaving behind right now.

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