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Walsh ordered to prove why he’s $100,000 arrears in child-support

Congressman Joe Walsh

Congressman Joe Walsh

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Updated: November 14, 2011 12:19AM

CHICAGO — A Cook County judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Johnsburg, in the Tea Party favorite’s child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering Walsh to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind on his child-support payments.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Raul Vega also wanted to know why Walsh wasn’t in court for the hearing — the McHenry Republican’s ex-wife, Laura Walsh was — and said he expects him to show up at the next hearing in November.

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.

Ultimately, Laura Walsh’s attorney said the congressman probably wouldn’t have to come to court for the next hearing, after all.

Still, Vega said he was going to issue a “rule to show cause” why Walsh shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for falling behind, according to his ex-wife, by $100,000 in his child support over the past five years.

The effect of that ruling is that instead of Laura Walsh having to prove that the congressman owes the money, now the burden shifts to the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe money, according to attorneys for both sides.

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 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.

Rep. 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.

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