For Immediate Release

Fathers Protest Flaherty Jailing in Cambridge

Statewide courthouse protests to escalate

BOSTON, November 18 – Over 40 members of the Fatherhood Coalition along with friends, family and supporters of John Flaherty rallied earlier this week (Tuesday, Nov. 13) outside the Cambridge Probate & Family Court to show their solidarity with the jailed father of two. Flaherty began serving a 150-day jail sentence for failure to pay an alleged child support arrearage on Nov. 5.

Using the jailing of one of their founding members as a catalyst, the Fatherhood Coalition are stepping up their statewide resistance movement. On Friday, Nov. 16, a smaller courthouse protest was staged by the North Central chapter at the Concord family court, and a contingent from the Hampden County chapter protested the pro-feminist, anti-father politics of State Senate majority leader Linda Melconian at her law office in West Springfield.

"John should be given back custody of his children. To be painted as an uncaring, not-wanting-to-pay dad is such a demoralizing shame because he has been in front of these judges for eight years begging to parent his children.

"Why isn't anyone looking into this crazy arrearage that came out of the blue in one day from a difference in child support for the past 6 years prior?"

- Suzanne Sargenat, sister of John Flaherty

Event leader Earl Henry Sholley says the Cambridge protest focused on the state's bad laws as well as the bad adjudication of those laws by the state's judges. According to Sholley:

"The first maxim of law is that it should do no harm. Yet, fathers and other family members are being irreparably harmed by the egregious decisions of the family court and other courts. We must protest loud and clear that Judge Beverly Boorstein, in trying to extort questionable monies and to teach John Flaherty a lesson, is not only punishing Dr. Flaherty, but she is punishing his entire family as well."

The impact of Flaherty's jailing on his family is echoed by his sister, Suzanne Sargeant,

"My mother and my children are heartbroken by this alienation, and my sadness is that these children still have love in their heart for all of us. The apparent snuffing out of these children's love for their dad, nana, aunt, uncle and the cousins they still love is an act by which myself as a mother cannot comprehend of another mother.

"John should be given back custody of his children. To be painted as an uncaring, not-wanting-to-pay dad is such a demoralizing shame because he has been in front of these judges for eight years begging to parent his children. Why isn't anyone looking into this crazy arrearage that came out of the blue in one day from a difference in child support for the past 6 years prior?"

Flaherty and the Coalition maintain that the alleged child support arrearage was retroactively engineered at a hearing on August 20 when his ex-wife made unsubstantiated claims of his earning ability and "having all new furniture and summering down the cape."

The Coalition call for the immediate ending of jailing fathers for domestic non-crimes under the color of 'contempt of court', and further assert that incarceration for a debt especially without due process and a trial is antithetical to the principles of a free society.

According to Flaherty, the alleged $10,000 arrearage appeared at a court hearing in front of Middlesex Probate & Family Court judge Beverly Boorstein on August 20 this year, when she computed a $35/week child support deficit accrued over 5 years by erroneously interpreting the case history (refer to "Details..."). The alleged $35/week deficit had never been raised before this summer, which makes no sense as it is alleged to have existed since 1996.

Details of Flaherty's Legal Case History Pertaining to Child Support

At the time of his divorce, under temporary orders, Flaherty was paying $115 per week in child support. His divorce judgment of 8/11/94 set his child support order at $400 per week and included a provision that he be responsible for 75% of college costs six years in the future. Flaherty succeeded in overturning this child support order from the divorce judgement. Following the divorce judgment he immediately filed an appeal, which was not to be adjudicated until a trial in February 1996.

Meanwhile, on 10/24/94 he filed a Complaint for Modification of the child support order. The matter was heard on 1/5/96 and the subsequent judgment dated 1/24/96 established a new CS order of $80 per week, and vacated all past due arrearages back until the date of the filing of the complaint, 10/24/94.

Following the hearing of Flaherty's appeal of the divorce judgment in February 1996, the Appeals Court issued a judgment that essentially cleared the arrearages for the two month period between his divorce judgment up to the date of the new $80 order established by the 1/24/96 order. The Appellate court decision set his CS order for that two month period at $115 per week, what it was before the divorce, and also vacated the two remaining outstanding contempt complaints filed against him by his ex-wife for money matters.

However, though these two judgments should have settled the child support issue, Flaherty was to be continually brought back to court by his ex-wife who sought a ruling from a judge willing to ignore the admittedly complex legal history and order more child support, disregarding the legal precedents that Flaherty had established in his case.

Enter judges Donnelly and Boorstein. In June of this year, Flaherty filed a Complaint for Modification for the college costs that he was to be 75% responsible for (the appeals court had neglected to address this issue in his original appeal because it was too far in the future). The hearing was marked to be heard 7/27/01. At the same time, his ex-wife was filing yet another contempt complaint against him, for failure to pay college costs.

The contempt matter was heard first, on 7/2/01. Flaherty claims that he was made aware of what college his now-estranged daughter was going to 5 minutes before the hearing began. Presiding judge Donnelly imposed a new order of $160 per week to accommodate the anticipated college expenses. But Donnelly found Flaherty not in contempt as no college costs had yet accrued.

At the 7/27/01 hearing brought forward by Flaherty specifically to address college costs, Judge Boorstein ignored his issue and instead assigned a guardian ad litem to "evaluate other job opportunities" for him. She did not change the $160 per week child support order. However, on this date, his ex-wife took out yet another complaint for contempt against Flaherty. She claimed that he was in arrears, as he had not been paying $115 per week since the Appeals Court decision five years earlier.

According to Flaherty, this is the core cause of his present incarceration. This complaint is "preposterous," Flaherty says, as the Appeals Court judgment establishing a $115/wk child support order does not supercede the judgment of his original Complaint for Modification that established his order at $80 per week, which he has been paying ever since. It only overrode the $400/wk order for the two-month period between the date of the divorce judgment until the filing of his original Complaint for Modification.

Judge Boorstein presided over the Contempt hearing on 8/20/01. She ruled that Flaherty was in contempt for not paying $115 per week since 9/18/96, the date of the Appeals court judgment. This $35 per week arrearage accumulated over 5 years amounted to $8,960. In addition, she found him in contempt for not paying $160 per week since the previous Contempt hearing of 7/2/01. Boorstein ordered Flaherty to pay $9,500 by Sept. 28 or go to jail for 150 days. When he refused, and after Boorstein's Findings of Fact were finally written, Flaherty was ordered to report to the Middlesex County Jail on Monday, Nov. 5 to begin serving a 150-day sentence.

The Fatherhood Coalition supports "shared parenting" and seeks to promote fairness in the adjudication of family law. For more information contact us through our main number, 617-723-3237 or the Fathers' Rights Hotline at 413-295-DADS or via our website at

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More information about the Flaherty case at

For further information, contact:

Mark Charalambous

CPF Spokesman

(978) 840-0268

Earl Henry Sholley

Southwest Metro Director

(508) 243-6009

Suzanne Sargeant

Sister of John Flaherty

(508) 528-3680

Bill Leisk

Friend of John Flaherty

(781) 784-6241

CPF / The Fatherhood Coalition

A non-profit, all volunteer organization of men and women advocating for fatherhood since 1994