Toronto Star

April 27, 2000

Deadbeat dad tossed in jail for 90 days

Markham man owes $103,000 in child support

By Patricia Orwen
Toronto Star Social Policy Reporter

An Ontario Court judge has jailed a deadbeat dad who owes his 12-year-old daughter more than $103,000 in court-ordered child support.

``I want the money for this child,'' Mr. Justice David Main told Mark Suddick of Markham yesterday, before ordering him to serve 90 days in jail.

Suddick is one of Ontario's 128,000 deadbeat parents who collectively owe more than $1.2 billion in support arrears.

The 39-year-old father had avoided his responsibilities until The Star tracked him down earlier this year at his parents' Markham house. The newspaper alerted the provincial government and last month, the Family Responsibility Office began to garnishee half of his wages and pass the money to his ex-wife, Harriet Levesque, and their daughter, Valerie.

For eight years, Suddick has divided his time between his parents' homes in Ontario and Florida, both in exclusive golfing communities. Although he earns $1,700 a month delivering auto parts, Suddick ignored court orders to pay support. One order, made by Main in 1994, was for just $75 a month.

``I had hoped Mr. Suddick would make the $17.32 per week payment,'' Main said. ``It's not a large sum of money . . . I gave him every opportunity to comply.''

In 1994, Suddick, who was on welfare at the time, got Main to cut the payments from the $750 a month he had been under orders to pay since 1991. But Suddick never made any of the $750 payments, which are now more than $103,000 in arrears after provincial cost-of-living adjustments. That debt will be dealt with at a later court date.

During the past six years, Suddick's $75 monthly payments have accumulated to a separate debt of $3,796. He had only made one child-support payment of $140 before The Star tracked him down.

Only if that $3,796 debt is paid off will Suddick be released before his 90 days are up, Main said, adding that serving the time does not wipe out the debt.

`I'm just so shocked that things are finally happening ...'
- Harriet Levesque
Mark Suddick's ex-wife

During cross-examination by Shane Foulds, a lawyer for the provincial office, the grim-faced, tense Suddick spoke so quietly that his own lawyer had to ask him to speak up.

When asked by Foulds why he hadn't made any payments or notified the office of his move to Florida, as he was supposed to do under the terms of the 1994 court order, Suddick replied, ``I wasn't fully understanding of my obligations.''

Suddick's lawyer, Edward Spong, described his client as a ``pathetic man'' who failed to make support payments because he has had ``his head in the sand.'' But Spong told the judge that a jail sentence would result in the loss of his job.

Main noted that he clearly warned Suddick on Nov. 30, 1994 that any breach of his order would result in jail time.

Suddick has no assets, but he has ``the backing of his parents,'' and should be made to pay the debt, Main said.

As Suddick was led away by police, Harriet Levesque stood outside the courtroom shaking.

``I'm just so shocked that things are finally happening after all these years,'' said Levesque, who is unemployed. ``My family would tell me to give up on trying to get any money from him, but I've always told them . . . one day he would get what he deserved.''

A Star investigation this year found that in October 1998, the provincial office forwarded 23,000 of its most hard-to-enforce cases, including Suddick's, to three private collection agencies. The collection agency failed to locate him and the provincial office notified Levesque it was giving up - but it took the Star only a matter of days to find Suddick in Markham.

The Star investigation also revealed that Suddick had lived in Florida for years and moved back to Canada in January, 1999, leaving behind a trail of lawsuits, debts and three warrants for his arrest.

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