By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
She hated being caught in the middle of the flap over child support and her college education, Wendy says. But while she loves her father she's also angry at him and his friends for the legal gauntlet to which they've subjected her mother. "I think it's unfair. I think it's cruel. I think it's malicious," she says. "It didn't have to go this far. It's really sad. I definitely feel my mother is doing what she feels is right, what I feel is right. She's not after his money. She was just after what was needed to support me.
"I feel like he's always wanted to hurt my mother," Wendy adds. "But I don't think they realize how much it hurts me. He thought it was a personal attack on my mother, but it hurt me."
Alice Levine, Paul's second wife (the two recently divorced after sixteen years of marriage), characterizes Brenda Feinberg as a "master manipulator" who used Wendy to attack her ex-husband. "Her mother has ruthlessly used her through the years," says Alice Levine. Paul didn't attend his daughter's bat mitzvah, she explains, because Feinberg refused to allow him to bring Alice as a guest. "It was a premeditated insult, really calculated to keep me from going," Paul Levine says.
Alice Levine also says Feinberg acted like a jealous woman, and once attacked her in the locker room at Bodyworks, a gym where both women exercise. Feinberg scratched her neck, drawing blood. (Feinberg says she confronted Alice Levine because she said insulting things to Wendy.)
Paul Levine says the problems he had with his daughter were Feinberg's fault. It's understandable, he says, that Wendy sides with her mother, the person who raised her. "I am proud of my daughter," he says. "I love my daughter."
By 1978, according to court records, Paul Levine's annual income had increased to more than $100,000. Child-support payments, however, remained at $250 per month. Feinberg felt an increase was justified, and she petitioned the court. After long negotiations that involved Levine and his parents, Feinberg agreed to an additional $100 per month. She says the Levines told her that in addition to the small child-support increase, she wouldn't have to pay anything toward Wendy's college education, that Paul would pay half and his parents would take care of the other half.
A new agreement was drawn up. Nard Helman, Feinberg's attorney at the time, says it was clear to him, based on the wording of the agreement and his conversations with Levine, that all of Wendy's educational expenses, including college tuition and living expenses, would be paid by Levine and his parents.
In 1984 Levine voluntarily increased his child-support payments to $560 per month and reiterated in a letter to Feinberg that he would pay for Wendy's college tuition. "This will explain my plan for taking care of Wendy's current child support needs and, just as important, if not more so, her college expenses which I am morally, but not legally obligated to pay," Levine wrote in a letter dated May 26, 1984. "I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this matter, especially the imminence of college. Wendy will go off to school in five years. That will be here before we turn around." The letter goes on to mention the problems Levine saw among his friends as they tried to pay for their children's college education. "My goal is to set aside enough, starting now, to have at least two years of Wendy's college education in the bank by summer 1989," he wrote. "The second two years will then hopefully come out of current earnings, loans, or whatever is necessary." Levine also agreed to pitch in separately with occasional spending money for clothing and trips. Over the years he helped pay for her to take school-related trips to Israel, Hawaii, New York, and Europe.
But costs associated with rearing a child had escalated so much, Feinberg says, that even with the extras Levine was providing the $560 per month wasn't enough. (According to legislative guidelines, a person earning $30,000 annually would be obliged to pay $560 per month in child support.) In 1985 Feinberg requested that the court review Levine's financial records, as well as Wendy's needs, to determine if an increase was warranted. For a brief time, in retaliation to Feinberg's request, Levine - whose gross salary in 1985 was $167,000 and in 1986 was $177,000 - dropped his monthly checks back down to $350. While Feinberg waited for the court to act, she was evicted from her house because she was unemployed and her second husband was in financial ruin.
In preparation for the eventual child-support hearing, Feinberg's attorney, Steven Abramowitz, wanted to take depositions from Levine's parents. But instead of hearing from Sally or Stanley Levine, Abramowitz received a call from Paul Levine, who told him not to bother his parents. They were old and ill, and Levine says he felt extremely protective of them. But Abramowitz says he still felt Levine's actions were innapropriate. "I'm not in the habit of taking telephone calls from the opposing party and having him tell me which witnesses I could depose and not depose," Abramowitz says today. "When the subpoena was not withdrawn, I received a Florida Bar complaint from Paul Levine." That complaint was eventually dismissed on the grounds that Levine's parents were in fact relevant witnesses. Levine's actions, Abramowitz claims, constituted petty harassment. "Without question," he says, "it's annoying."