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Rep. Joe Walsh says child-support dispute with ex-wife is resolved

Congressman Joe Walsh held brief news conference where he discussed dismissal his child support issues Chicago April 19 2012.

Congressman Joe Walsh held a brief news conference where he discussed the dismissal of his child support issues, in Chicago on April 19, 2012. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: February 11, 2013 5:34PM

Tea Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh and his ex-wife Laura Walsh have reached a settlement on her claim that he owed her $117,000 in back child support from years of paying nothing.

“Even my former wife agrees I was never a ‘deadbeat dad’ and we have resolved our differences in private,” the outspoken conservative freshman from McHenry said at a news conference Thursday.

Neither side would disclose the terms of the settlement. Laura Walsh did not comment Thursday beyond a written statement she made jointly with her ex-husband saying, in part: “We now agree that Joe is not and was not a ‘deadbeat dad’ and does not owe child support.”

In her court filing a few weeks after Walsh’s surprise 2010 election, Laura Walsh detailed years of her ex-husband’s alleged failure to pay child support, during which time she said he told her he “had no money” to give her.

Walsh later said that since his wife’s income increased and his plummeted, he thought they had an informal agreement under which he did not have to pay. But Walsh did not give any details in his news conference, choosing instead to point to the joint statement, which also said he and his ex-wife “both regret this public misunderstanding and the effect it has had on our children. Like many families, we have had our share of issues and made our share of mistakes over the years. … We both have been loving and devoted parents to our children, ages 24, 21, and 17, and are happy to avoid a public legal fight hurtful to our entire family and look forward to caring for our children in private.”

At his news conference, Walsh said for the last nine months since the Sun-Times broke the story on Laura Walsh’s child support claims against him, “Every single day I would go to bed wanting to scream” because he wanted to tell his side of the story. But he said he resolved to fight only in court.

He used his 20-minute news conference at Republican Party headquarters to blast the news media for their coverage of his child support case and also to slam his opponent, Democratic Iraqi War veteran Tammy Duckworth, for issuing a news release that said his alleged child-support non-payment was part of a pattern of Walsh “failing to meet his responsibilities.” Duckworth’s release listed his tax liens and other alleged financial misbehavior on Walsh’s part.

“How graceless,” Walsh said of Duckworth. “How utterly void of grace. How classless. This is a good day personally for me. It’s a good day for my kids, the mother of my kids. Gosh, I would have hoped she would have just acknowledged that.”

Walsh said he wants to spend the next seven months debating the issues with Duckworth but he said so far she has declined to agree to his invitation for monthly debates.

Then Walsh challenged the media to adequately cover his confidential settlement.

“You all gleefully jumped on this story when it broke and did your best to make it as sensational as you could,” Walsh said. “Your profession does a great job tearing down reputations and I think you do a pretty lousy job repairing those reputations when warranted.”

Joe and Laura Walsh had been married 15 years when she filed for divorce in December 2002.

In 2004, Laura Walsh complained in a motion that despite her ex-husband’s claims of poverty, he took a vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend and another to Italy. The following year, he complained in a court filing that his ex-wife mailed him a motion while she knew he was in Nicaragua doing charitable work with one of their children.

In a December 2010 motion filed a month after his election to Congress, Laura Walsh said he stopped making his court-ordered payments years earlier and told her he didn’t have any money. She said in the motion that she filed it after she saw that he had enough money to lend his campaign $35,000.

“The apparent availability of large sums of money from either his employment, his family or his campaign has allowed him to live quite a comfortable lifestyle, while at the same time, due to his failure to pay child support or any of his share of the education costs or medical expenses, Laura and his children were denied any of these advantages,” the motion said.

Laura Walsh went to court repeatedly over the past nine years to get him to pay up, sometimes even asking the court to garnish his wages, court records show. Since he took office a year and a half ago, $2,164 has been deducted from his monthly check to cover his current child support obligations.

A judge dismissed the divorce case Thursday.

The story of the court battle had proved an embarrassment to Walsh, who had quickly risen to the top of the cable news interview circuit with his hard line against raising the country’s debt limit.

“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh was quoted lecturing President Barack Obama in a widely circulated video in which he asked Obama, “Have you no shame, sir?”

The unwelcome publicity was likely a factor in Walsh’s decision to run for re-election in a newly drawn Democratic-leaning district against Duckworth, instead of running in a more Republican district against fellow Rep. Randy Hultgren.

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