Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lawyer Ends 1 Man's Woes but Win in Child Support Case Can't Dispel Disillusionment

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lawyer Ends 1 Man's Woes but Win in Child Support Case Can't Dispel Disillusionment

Article excerpt

Jennifer Sommers had just about given up on her dream of using her law degree to change the world. It seemed that no matter how much help she gave her clients, their problems never ended.

Then she read about Earl Farrar.

Farrar, 33, a warehouse worker in Atlanta, was being charged $133,000 in back child support for a child he once believed was his. DNA tests proved he couldn't be the father, but Farrar couldn't get a lawyer to fight the child-support order.

His problem was described in a column in the Post-Dispatch on May 1 - just as Sommers was wrestling with whether to abandon her solo law practice.

"I was beginning to view what I did as a lose-lose situation," said Sommers, 27, who lives in Grantwood Village. "It seemed like even if I did the best possible job for a client, nobody was ever completely happy."

When Sommers read about Farrar's problem, she felt sorry for him. He was nearly broke because a third of his $1,360-a-month wage was going to the state for child support. He was deeply in debt and about to lose his car. She called him and offered to take his case for $15 an hour - $110 less than the going rate.

There was one hitch: She knew nothing about child-support law.

"I told him I was willing to ask a lot of questions," she said.

Other lawyers told Sommers there was no way to overturn the court order. But after about 50 hours of research, she found one.

"It was a little rule in the middle of a bunch of other rules that basically said if something's not equitable, it can be overturned," Sommers said.

On Aug. 18, Sommers persuaded a circuit court judge to declare that Farrar wasn't the child's father and dismiss the child-support order. Farrar's $133,000 debt was erased.

St. Louis County Family Court Judge Martin Schiff Jr. said Sommers had done a great job for her client.

"She presented pretty conclusive evidence that he wasn't the father," said Schiff, who presided over the case. …

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