Conroe, TX – A Montgomery County judge threatened to jail a man for refusing to pay $96,000 in spousal support and attorney fees to his ex-wife, even though the woman has been indicted on bigamy charges.
Mark Athans, 56, argued that his marriage to Charity Parchem, 42, was never legal, because Parchem was married to at least one other man when they wed in August of 2017, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Athans said he had no idea that his new bride was still married to someone else at the time.
According to court records, the couple met online through mutual friends in April of 2016, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Parchem claimed that she was divorced, and she and Athans eventually began dating.
They were married in South Dakota in August of 2017, then moved to Athans’ home in Willis, Texas.
But Athans’ eldest son had concerns about his father’s new wife, so he began digging into her story, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“Some things just didn’t add up,” Athans told the news outlet. “He went and did a background check on her and found she had a criminal record. I never knew anything about that.”
Athans ultimately contacted Parchem’s parents, who verified her criminal history, he said.
He filed for divorce just two months after their wedding, KPRC reported.
According to court records, Parchem was married three times before she married Athans, but investigators could only find evidence that was divorced once, KTRK reported.
In February, a Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Parchem on one count of felony bigamy, according to the Houston Chronicle.
She was subsequently released on $20,000 bond.
"It was just a lot of deception," Athans told KPRC. "As a reasonable human being, she planned all this. I was a mark. She's lied and deceived all of us. She has lied and deceived other people. And she keeps winning.”
Athans filed a motion to have County Court at Law 3 Judge Patrice McDonald toss out his divorce settlement on the grounds that their marriage was never legal, but McDonald refused to consider the bigamy indictment against Parchem during the divorce proceedings, the Houston Chronicle reported.
His attorneys even went so far as to bring Parchem’s legal husband to court to testify, but McDonald turned him away, Athans told KPRC.
Athans must also continue paying spousal support and attorney fees to Parchem in the amount of $3,000 per month while his appeal is pending, he told KTRK.
“I don’t understand,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I’m having to pay to hurt myself.”
"Why? What did I do wrong?” he asked during an interview with KTRK. “I tried my best to do for somebody that I fell in love with that I thought had good intentions. But she didn't.”
Athans said that the appeals process will be lengthy.
“I was told the appeals process would take up to two years, which is going to be $70,000 to $80,000 [worth of payments to her]," he said. “I'm up against the wall. My last resort was to bring this before the public. Hopefully, the public can show, if anything, how bad this has gotten. It shouldn't have gotten this far. The court is responsible for this."
Athans said he is also the sole caregiver for his younger son, who is autistic, the Houston Chronicle reported.
He is worried about losing his job and not having anyone to care for his son if McDonald follows through with her threats to throw him in jail.
“What am I supposed to tell my son? ‘I’m sorry, son, but I’ve got to go to jail for 18 months?’” he asked KTRK as he tried to hold back tears. “I’m his only parent. His mother is deceased.”
McDonald has scheduled another hearing regarding the divorce settlement for Sep. 25, the Houston Chronicle reported.