Globe and Mail

Man hangs himself after order to pay family support

Estranged B.C., husband was on stress leave with benefits of $2,200 a month when court demanded he pay $2,071

ROBERT MATAS, British Columbia Bureau, Vancouver
The Globe and Mail
Thursday March 23, 2000

Darrin White, 34, was found hanging from a tree in a forest outside Prince George. At the time, he was off work on a stress leave.

A Prince George man committed suicide last week after a family court judge ordered him to pay almost as much as he was earning to support his estranged wife and three children.

Darrin White, 34, was found on Friday hanging from a tree in a forest outside Prince George. At the time, he was off work on a stress leave.

Mr. White was depressed as a result of his divorce, a physician had stated a few weeks earlier. In a statement for disability benefits, the doctor wrote that Mr. White had "cognitive impairment, inability to concentrate."

Mr. White had been ordered to pay $2,071 a month in family support payments at a time when he said he was earning only $2,200 a month, out of which he was also supposed to be paying $439 a month to support a daughter from a previous marriage.

Peter Ostrowski, spokesman for the Prince George Parent Child Advocacy Coalition, called for a provincial inquiry into the death, charging that the court order may have been responsible for the suicide.

Lawyer Darren Lindsay, who represented Mr. White's wife, Madeleine, cautioned about jumping to conclusions.

"I don't know what went through Mr. White's head and why he did what he did," he said in an interview yesterday.

An acrimonious separation and a fight in court over support payments is extremely difficult, he added. "There's no doubt that can have an effect. But people go through this every day and don't commit suicide.

Mr. and Mrs. White, 33, married in December, 1988, and separated on Ian. 18, when Ms. White moved out with their three children, ages 10, 9 and 5. Under a court order, she moved back into the house with the children, and Mr. White was forced to move out.

Both are qualified rail locomotive engineers and both worked as railway engineers before moving to B.C. from Hearst, Ont., in June, 1995.

However, since moving, Ms. White had worked for only one month as a commissioned sales person.

According to a B.C. Supreme Court order dated Feb. 21, Mr. White also had a daughter from a previous relationship that ended before his marriage in 1988. A few weeks after he separated from his wife, he signed a contract to provide $439 a month in support payments for his first daughter who is now 14.

However, Mr. White had not seen his daughter for three years and, until the contract, had made payments only from time to time.

The court questioned whether the payments were actually being made and concluded that the contract to make payments was "an agreement purely of convenience." The court also concluded that Mr. White would soon return to work and resume earning his annual salary of about $60,000.

Mr. Ostrowski said Mr. White was unfairly treated.

With a court order for support payments of $2,071 and a contract for $439 to his first daughter, he had "a negative income" and no place to live, Mr. Ostrowski added.

"He had just enough money left to buy some new rope and hung himself in the forest," he said.

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