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Does Racism Account for Vast Differences in Child-Support Payments?

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Former National Football League star Terrell Owens reportedly is almost broke, the victim of poor investments and other financial downturns. According to a recent profile in GQ, Owens must pay $44,600 a month in child support--for four children he has by three women.

The court-ordered payments apparently are a major reason that Terrell Owens, 38, is on a financial precipice, now that his football career seems to be at an end. Owens' plight raises this disturbing question: Do American courts practice flagrant racism in making child-support orders?

It's a reasonable question when you compare Terrell Owens' child-support payments to those of Ted Rollins, the white CEO of Campus Crest Communities and a member of one of the nation's wealthiest families. The comparison is even more reasonable when you consider that both Owens and Rollins have strong ties to Alabama and the Deep South in general. (In fact, Owens' financial troubles stem in part from an investment in the failed Country Crossing development near Dothan, according to a recent report by Gus Garcia-Roberts in Miami New Times.)

Owens, who grew up in Alexander City, Alabama, pays $44,600 a month for four children--and if our math is correct, that comes to $11,150 per child. As we have reported numerous times, Ted Rollins has an ex wife (Sherry Carroll Rollins) and two teen-aged daughters (Sarah and Emma Rollins), who live in Birmingham. According to a final judgment of divorce in Shelby County, Alabama, Ted Rollins pays $815 a month in child support for two children. That comes to $407.50 per child.

Terrell Owens pays more than 27 times the amount that Ted Rollins pays, per child. How can that be?

I can think of only one explanation: Terrell Owens is black and comes from a relatively poor background, with no ties to the large law firms and corporations that control our courts. Ted Rollins is white and comes from a background of extreme privilege, with deep ties to corporate elites (his cousins, Randall and Gary Rollins of Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., are billionaires) and powerful law firms, such as Bradley Arant of Birmingham.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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