By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A judge declined Friday to lower the child-support payments that former Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer must make for his three boys, calling Farmer “voluntarily underemployed.”
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Squire Williams did allow Farmer to suspend his $1,227-a-month child support payments in September and October while Farmer recuperates from hip replacement surgery in August.
Williams decision followed a Sept. 13 hearing where Farmer and his former wife Rebecca Farmer testified.
Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball star, had asked the court to lower his child support payments due to his surgery and because the payments were based on his $110,000-a-year job as commissioner of agriculture, a position he left in December. Farmer ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket with Senate President David Williams in November 2011.
Farmer has argued in court documents and during the Sept. 13 hearing that an ongoing investigation into alleged improprieties at the Department of Agriculture while Farmer was commissioner has hampered his job search. The attorney general and other agencies are investigating whether Farmer improperly used state employees and resources. Farmer served two four-year terms as commissioner.
In his decision on Friday, Williams said Richie Farmer is “not without resources to aid him in finding employment and income.”
Williams said he could not conclude that Farmer has been diligent “about securing a regular income since January 2012.”
Farmer has two college degrees, is a former University of Kentucky basketball stand out and was licensed to sell insurance prior to becoming agriculture commissioner, Williams said.
“The court finds that Mr. Farmer is voluntarily underemployed,” Williams wrote.
Williams said Farmer doesn’t have to make child-support payments in September and October because hip replacement surgery will limit Farmer’s ability to work during those months. Farmer used a walker during the Sept. 13 hearing.
Richard Guarnieri, an attorney for Richie Farmer, said Williams’ order gives his client some much-needed time to get back on his feet.
“I think it gives Richie some breathing room over the next few months,” Guarnieri said.
Attorneys for Rebecca Farmer could not be reached for comment on Friday.Rebecca Farmer filed for divorce in April 2011, and it was finalized in July.