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An attorney-turned-divinity student who owes more than $40,000 in child support has been held in contempt by a Manhattan judge for refusing to file the necessary papers to become a member of the New York State Bar. “This court recognizes that in order to hold a party in contempt one needs to show willfulness,” Acting Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Sunshine wrote in Lopez v. Ajose, 4863/01. “Here, defendant has willfully determined that he will not file the papers necessary for the admission to the bar with the appropriate judicial department. He has also willfully determined that he now wishes to become a minister and not meet his support obligations.” Defendant Simon Ajose graduated from Columbia University School of Law and joined Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in 2001. As an associate, he earned $100,000 a year, according to the decision. Around the time he joined the firm, Ajose divorced his wife of 10 years. They have two children, ages 8 and 11. Ajose agreed to pay $875 per month for one year, at which point the issue of child support would be revisited. The stipulation of settlement also required him to pay $7,000 toward the couple’s marital debt and 50 percent of their children’s unreimbursed medical, dental and educational expenses. In April 2002, after Ajose was dismissed from Frank Fried for failing the bar exam, a Family Court examiner modified his support obligation down to $842 monthly. Ajose later passed the bar. In the current action, the plaintiff, Ajose’s ex-wife Stephanie Lopez, alleged that Ajose’s child support arrears now total more than $23,000, and that his unpaid share of additional children’s expenses exceed $17,000. She moved for contempt, asking for the unpaid support, expenses and distributive award, as well as attorney and expert witness fees. Lopez contended that her ex-husband’s “contention that he cannot find employment is not credible, nor does he provide any explanation for his return now to divinity school,” according to the decision. Lopez is “particularly disturbed that [Ajose] is living in a house owned by his mother, drives a new car, has a cell phone and a separate phone line, is well-dressed and recently purchased the children expensive video games systems, scooters and other gifts,” Justice Sunshine wrote. For his part, Ajose replied that “having a cell phone and a home phone is not an indicator of affluence in any sense.” He testified that he worked at Fried Frank for 10 months, until being terminated in June 2002. After finally passing the bar exam in February 2003, he worked as a temporary employee for one year. Ajose, who worked at CBS Records before attending law school, then decided to attend a theological seminary full time in pursuit of a master’s degree in divinity. CONTEMPT RULING “At oral argument it was revealed that [he] no longer wishes to be a lawyer and has failed to file the required documents necessary for admission to the bar … despite attending law school and the great effort and time he dedicated to taking the bar exam,” Justice Sunshine wrote. The judge ruled that Ajose’s decision not to join the bar merited a finding of contempt. “Domestic Relations Law �245 authorizes enforcement by contempt where it appears presumptively to the satisfaction of the Court that payment cannot be enforced by any other remedies available to a payee spouse,” the judge noted, citing Farkas v. Farkas, 209 AD 2d 316. “It has been proved to the satisfaction of the Court herein and defendant has offered no justification for his failure to make the necessary payments herein other than the fact that he is voluntarily unemployed,” he added. The judge stated that his decision to hold Ajose in contempt for not joining the bar did not preclude Ajose from pursuing his desire to become a minister. “Once admitted and once earning a living there would be nothing to stop him from going to night school to gain an additional degree in divinity while still meeting his obligation to support his two young children,” Justice Sunshine suggested. The judge scheduled an April 20 evidentiary hearing to calculate outstanding support and determine “the issue of upward modification.”

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