Surgeon's wife feels like she's fighting Goliath

By Steve Korris | Mar 13, 2008

CHARLESTON- Dawn Martinez squeezed a smooth small stone while the state Supreme Court of Appeals tried to decide how much child support her former husband, orthopedic surgeon David Soulsby, should pay.

Her pastor had given her the stone the Sunday before a March 12 hearing on the support calculation to remind her of the Biblical story of David and Goliath.

David, a young shepherd, slung a smooth small stone that knocked out the giant.

Martinez said after the hearing that she felt like David because state Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey represented Soulsby.

She said it was her first time in the Capitol.

Dr. Soulsby seeks a reduction of monthly support from $5,579 to $4,068. Court records show he earned about $35,000 a month in 2005.

David and Dawn divorced in 2002. Putnam County Family Court Judge William Watkins set the current support rate in 2006.

Watkins calculated support for daughter Kari from a shared parenting worksheet and for son Devin from an extended shared parenting worksheet.

Soulsby protested that under state law, support should decrease with each extra child. He argued that Watkins should average the worksheets instead of combining them.

Soulsby appealed to Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding, who denied the appeal.

Soulsby took the case to the Supreme Court. Casey associate Amanda Ream wrote that Soulsby would pay Martinez less if she had full custody of both children.

Ream calculated support for two children at $4,423 under the basic worksheet and $3,713 under the extended worksheet.

For Martinez, Ancil Ramey of Charleston wrote that the goal of the statute was adequate and appropriate support in relation to the circumstances of the parents.

"Dr. Soulsby admits that what he advocates can be found nowhere in the statute," Ramey wrote. "What he is urging this Court to do is to fill in the interstices of the statute by adopting a rule that will hurt children."

At oral arguments, while Martinez squeezed her stone, Casey told the Justices the Legislature should rewrite the support law.

"The Legislature can't anticipate every situation," Chief Justice Spike Maynard said.

"That's why they make the big bucks," Casey replied.

"Averaging may not be fair," Justice Larry Starcher said.

"We understand the issue," Maynard said. "We don't know what to do about it."

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