Thursday, May 10, 2001

Lawsuit claims Stumbo broke child-support deal

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — A Fayette Circuit Court lawsuit accuses House Majority Leader Greg Stumbo of reneging on an agreement to pay child support, medical bills and other costs for a boy he allegedly fathered out of wedlock in 1988.

        Mr. Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Tuesday he could be the father, but denied a support agreement had been reached. He said he has offered to fulfill his legal responsibility if tests show he is the father.

        The lawsuit, filed last week, is against one of the most powerful leaders in the legislature. Mr. Stumbo, 49, is often mentioned as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor in 2003 and has indicated he may be interested in that or another statewide office.

        The boy's mother, Travis A. Fritsch, 49, is a former victims' advocate in the Kentucky attorney general's office who played a lead role in rewriting the state's domestic-violence law in 1992. Her suit said Mr. Stumbo agreed in March to the terms of a settlement — pending a blood test to prove the child is his — but then refused to sign the agreement.

        Mr. Stumbo has not yet filed a response to the suit in court.

        Ms. Fritsch has wavered over the years on who is the father of the boy, Mr. Stumbo told the Courier-Journal. Mr. Stumbo said Ms. Fritsch came to him last fall to claim he is the father and he has worked with her since then, but no agreement was reached.

        Mr. Stumbo said he was married to his first wife when the boy was conceived. He has since divorced and remarried. He said he believes the suit was an attempt to embarrass him and his family.

        “I have offered from day one to take a test, and if the test showed that I am the father of the child, that I'll meet my legal responsibility,” Mr. Stumbo said.

        Ms. Fritsch refused to comment on the suit, which said she and Mr. Stumbo tried to negotiate an agreement on custody and support before and after the child was born and finally reached a tentative agreement March 15.

        According to the suit, the agreement was to take effect only if a paternity test showed a 90 percent or higher likelihood that Mr. Stumbo is the father. But when the papers were sent to Mr. Stumbo's lawyer for Mr. Stumbo to sign, he refused, the suit said.

        Mr. Stumbo said a number of proposed agreements have been sent back and forth, but “we never had an agreement.”

        Ms. Fritsch's suit asks that Mr. Stumbo be required to pay child support, reimburse her for past health insurance and pay for future health insurance for the boy, pay for unreimbursed medical bills and attend court-ordered visitation.

        A copy of the claimed settlement was included in the lawsuit. Under its terms, Ms. Fritsch would get sole custody of the boy and Mr. Stumbo would pay $1,057.75 per month in child support; Mr. Stumbo and Ms. Fritsch would split the cost of medical insurance and treatment as well as college tuition, books and fees; Mr. Stumbo would pay $42,443 in back child support and be required to give the boy birthday presents valued at $25 or more and Christmas presents valued at $50 or more.

        The court papers indicate Mr. Stumbo has helped Ms. Fritsch in the past with gifts or loans but doesn't say how much. Mr. Stumbo said he has given and loaned money to Ms. Fritsch, but the money was never intended as child support.


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