Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ex Cuts off Dying Wife's alimony. Reporter doesn't name Judge allowing it.

Why are reporters protecting judges when Journalism 101 requires identifying the players?


By: Dave Balut

Hudson, Fl. - Margaret Cochran is 51-years-old and wonders if she'll make it to 52. She has terminal ovarian cancer.

"I am in pain, I have problems with some of my organs working like kidneys bladder and so forth," said Cochran.

Having stage four ovarian cancer is bad enough, but Cochran has a more immediate concern. She says her ex-husband stopped paying alimony in November.

"I had contacted his wife to say why aren't you paying alimony and his response was, aren't you dead yet?" said Cochran.

Cochran's ex-husband is Stephen Paul Coleman, a 50-year-old former attorney who owns a mortgage company in Jacksonville.

Records show he's ordered to pay $1,650 a month in alimony, but a court statement indicates he's more than $11,000 behind.

"It's life or death. If I don't get it, I have nowhere to live, no medicine. No food no shelter, no vehicle, I would have nothing," said Cochran.

"If he's just ignoring it, the court's not going to have a lot of sympathy for him," said family law attorney David Plante.

Plante says the Florida Department of Revenue helps collect alimony if the person is also owed child support, but not alimony alone. So Cochran must go back to court.

"It's incumbent on him then to prove that he doesn't have the ability to pay for some reason to avoid the contempt power," said Plante.

Cochran has gone back to court in Jacksonville for alimony. She tried to have the case moved closer because of her health, but the judge said no.

"I don't think anyone should spend their last days on earth being drug through court, not being able to pay your bills," said Cochran.

Her church has helped with food and utility bills but Cochran says she's more than $8,000 behind in medical bills.

"I'm afraid I'm going to be on the street," said Cochran.

Our phone calls to Cochran's ex-husband Stephen Coleman were not returned.

But now, Cochran has some help from a family law specialist who heard about her situation. St. Petersburg attorney Wendy Doyle has offered to represent Cochran, free of charge.