Broward News

Judge to NFL Linebacker Clinton Session: Pay Child Support for Special-Needs Toddler or Go to Jail

Former NFL Linebacker Clinton Session claims he can’t afford to pay what he owes in child support for his severely disabled daughter, even though in 2011 and 2012 he received $9.8 million playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yesterday, a judge gave Sessions ten days to pay or go to jail. 

The past three years have been a living nightmare for Davia Bradshaw, age 36, who had a child with Session. The Pompano Beach mom has been caring for her 3-year-old, Ashton, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is wheelchair-bound, can’t sit up without a back brace, can't go to the bathroom by herself, and is nearly blind. Bradshaw has lost her apartment and struggles to pay for Ashton’s treatment, which costs thousands of dollars each month. Meanwhile, Session purchased an $850,000 home in Indianapolis, bought his new girlfriend a Mercedes, took a vacation to the Dominican Republic, and started a juice business.

Last September, a Broward judge ruled that Session owes nearly $370,000 in back child support and is expected to pay $6,900 a month. It has been more than seven months, and Bradshaw says she hasn’t received near that amount of money. Session’s payments have not been on time nor for the full amount owed, she says.

According to Bradshaw's attorney, Sara Lawrence, Session now owes $381,912, and on Monday, after three years of legal tug-of-war, a Broward judge ruled that the athlete has ten days to pay it or he will be in civil contempt of court. If Session doesn't pay, he could spend as much as six months in jail.

“I think the biggest victory will come when he actually John Hancocks the check and starts to pay [monthly child support] regularly,” Bradshaw told New Times after the ruling. “But it’s a sense of relief to know that my daughter and I can finally live like normal people and that she can get the necessary equipment, housing, transportation, and everything that she needs.”

Session’s attorney, Marlon Bryan, said yesterday that he is “disappointed with the ruling” but added that “nothing is finalized” since the judge hadn't yet filed the paperwork to accompany his order. Bryan maintains that Session simply doesn't have the money. "In any contempt situation in Florida court, it has to determine whether a person has willfully failed to do something and whether present ability allows to pay whatever was ordered," he said. 

Bryan criticizes Bradshaw for speaking to the media about their trial. “Remember, a person is not guilty because they chose to wait on the court to decide their fate,” Bryan says. “Mr. Session wants to protect his daughter from the media. However, others have chosen a different route.”

According to court papers, Session has always claimed he is unable to afford the child support. Sometime between April 2012 and December 2014, Session paid Bradshaw $75,100 for Ashton’s care. After that, money came in erratically. That's when Bradshaw took Session to court. At first, he represented himself, stating that he had no income and couldn’t afford child support or even hire an attorney. “Session has lost the ability to make a living and earn the living he once did as a professional athlete,” court papers say.

Bradshaw wasn’t convinced. Her legal team subpoenaed Session’s bank records and hired a forensic accountant. They found that between October 2011 and November 2012, Session had given $5.1 million to his parents — a move, Judge Arthur Birken said, to “circumvent and specifically intended to avoid paying his proper child support obligation.”

Session and his attorneys claim that Session has no access to the money. But in April 2014, Session spent $850,000 on an Indianapolis home, $34,820 for a Mercedes, $20,000 to a church, and $17,521 on a Sub-Zero refrigerator (apparently for his juice business).

In December 2014, Session was ordered to pay $6,900 a month, plus an extra $2,000 a month for back child support. Session is still fighting that ruling, maintaining that he wasn’t in court to defend himself because he was sick.

Bradshaw reports that Session has provided only $14,000 in the past year — about $1,000 a month. She says that’s barely enough to cover Ashton’s special diet. Bradshaw says she didn’t have enough money to afford tests or treatment that Ashton needed. “Plenty of times, we just didn’t have the money and had to rely on family and friends,” Bradshaw says. “It’s ridiculous when you learn that her father is a public figure.”

Once the money comes in, Bradshaw says the first thing she will buy is a hyperbaric chamber, which Ashton desperately needs, and start her on intensive therapy. “It’s all long overdue,” Bradshaw says. “She needs a new wheelchair too.”

Bradshaw attorney Sara Lawrence remains skeptical. “Even if he does pay the amount in full, he still owes $6,900 a month. Come May 1, he owes another $6,900,” Lawrence says. “It’s never over. Ashton will need care her entire life.”

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson