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SF Fire Chief's Wages Garnished by Judge

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By Edward Tan, JD on May 21, 2012 9:43 AM

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White has been ordered by a judge to have her wages garnished to pay spousal support to her ex-husband. Where else, but the City by the Bay can you see this level of gender role-reversal?

Hayes-White will have $3,300 taken from her paycheck every month to pay past due alimony to her former spouse, Robert "Sean" White. The fire chief stopped paying White 14 months ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Why did she have the change of heart?

She claims she stopped after White choked one of their sons while in a drunken rage. White later plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment and cruelty. He's serving on a work detail as part of his sentence.

However, as heinous as White's alleged actions may be, that doesn't excuse one from paying spousal support. Failure to do so can be tantamount to contempt of court.

When a person is ordered by a judge to do something, that person must comply with the request. Ignore the order and you could be held in contempt. There are two types of contempt: civil and criminal. The former is generally issued for the purpose of restoring another party's rights. The latter is given to punish a wrongdoer.

While each type is issued for different reasons, both can result in imprisonment and/or fines.

Luckily for Hayes-White, it didn't go that far. She just has to pay her past due spousal support. At the moment, the total is more than $40,000.

When a spouse fails to pay alimony, the other spouse may request a judge to issue a wage garnishment order. That's exactly what White received. Fortunately, the San Francisco fire chief earns $302,000 annually, so the deductions probably won't hurt her bottom line too badly.

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