CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cook County judge ruled Wednesday that Congressman Joe Walsh must prove that he made nearly $100,000 in child-support payments as part of his ongoing legal dispute with his ex-wife, Laura Walsh.
Earlier this year, Laura Walsh sued the Republican congressman from McHenry $117,000 in unpaid child support. Rep. Walsh, a Tea Party favorite, has disputed that he owes that much in child support.
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Laura Walsh was at Wednesday’s hearing before Cook County Judge Raul Vega, but the congressman was not, prompting the judge to ask Rep. Walsh’s attorney why he wasn’t there.
Walsh’s new attorney, Janet Boyle, asked Vega “for what purpose” he wanted the congressman in court.
Vega gave her a puzzled look.
To which Boyle responded: “Mr. Walsh is a U.S. congressman.”
“Well, he’s no different than anyone else,” the judge said. Vega said he expects Rep. Walsh to show up at the next hearing, in November.
But Laura Walsh’s attorney later said the congressman probably wouldn’t have to come to court for the next hearing after all.
Meantime, Vega said he was going to issue a “rule to show cause” why Walsh shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling behind on child support over the past five years.
The effect of that ruling is that, instead of Laura Walsh having to prove the congressman owes the money, the burden shifts to the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe money, according to attorneys for both Walshes.
Laura Walsh said her husband started making half-payments years ago and then making no payments at all, claiming he had no money.
Last year, when she saw he had made a $35,000 contribution to his own congressional campaign, Laura Walsh said she became suspicious about his “no money” claims and had her attorney file the motion that Judge Vega granted on Wednesday.
In less than a year in Congress, the telegenic, silver-haired freshman has catapulted to the top of the cable television short-list, offering pithy anti-Obama soundbites, often criticizing the Obama administration for fiscal irresponsibility.
After Wednesday’s court hearing, Laura Walsh spoke about having to shoulder the financial burden of three children — two of them now adults — on her own for the last several years.
“It’s been extremely difficult,” she said. “We get through one day at a time.”
Laura Walsh — who works as a public policy analyst for the pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly and Co. — said the issue before the court is straightforward: “It’s child support. Either he paid it, or he didn’t. I’m certainly pleased with the ruling today.”
Boyle said she most likely wouldn’t proceed with a motion Laura Walsh’s attorney, Jack Coladarci, had termed “harassing,” which asked Eli Lilly for Laura Walsh’s salary history and other documents.
“That may eliminate some of the contentiousness going on,” Boyle said.
Vega stayed the subpoena to Eli Lilly.
Walsh hired Boyle recently after a private session a few weeks ago in which attorneys for both sides were unable to reach a settlement.
Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.
(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)