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Father Suicide (return to list)

Randall Couch

From: Bob Hirschfeld

To: All Subj: In Memoriam: Randy Couch ____________________________________________________________________________

May 10, 1994 As a divorce lawyer in Phoenix AZ, as a father, and as someone who cares about such things, I feel compelled to tell about a piece of news which brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it today while participating in an unrelated court hearing: I was the second of a series of four attorneys for Randall Couch, a Phoenix architectural consultant. In his long-ago divorce, he had been poorly advised by his first attorney to stipulate to sole custody to the wife, and to a peculiar stepped-increase child support arrangement.

A few years later, his first lawyer (who had been his high school classmate) helped him work out a stipulated order in which he and his wife agreed to stop the child support because of the large percentage of time he had each week with his son. But, unbeknownst to Randy, that first lawyer didn't file the agreement with the court.

Years later (last year) the ex-wife decided to go after him by claiming that he owed a huge child support arrearage ($28,000), and alleging that the never-filed agreement was void. He hired me as his second lawyer, and after a heavily contested trial, a judge ruled against us and found that he owed the $28,000, plus his wife's attorney fees. I withdrew, and Randy hired his third attorney; several months later, he hired his fourth. With $28,000 judgment in hand, the wife's lawyer seized all of Randy's money from bank accounts, garnished receivables from his architectural clients, had his car taken from him, and most recently, dragged him and his fourth lawyer into court for contempt proceedings.

Randy was ordered to pay $1500 by noon today, or go to jail. Last night, Randy blew his brains out. There's a little kid somewhere in Phoenix who will never again spend the majority of the week with his Dad.

There's an ex-wife who is never going to get the rest of her $28,000 pound of flesh. There's a wife's attorney and a judge in Phoenix who will have to live for the rest of their lives with the weight of this tragedy on their heads. I was in a hearing before a Commissioner this afternoon when I learned of the suicide.

I'm not ashamed to say: I cried. I've been through, and survived some pretty gut-wrenching events in my life as a lawyer, especially over the past months, most especially last week. But nothing like this. A good man has been sacrificed on the altar of the "deadbeat dad" mentality. A little bit of all of us died with Randy.

 Bob Hirschfeld, Phoenix AZ