When Mark Athans found the love of his life at age 56, he thought he would finally get a happy ending to his story. Excitedly, the medical professional married 42-year-old Charity Lenee Parchem in South Dakota before sweeping her away to his Texas home where he then introduced his new bride to his son.
Although Athans' son struggles with autism, the disorder hasn't stripped him of his intuition. Going on instinct, the young man began researching his father's new wife, uncovering her disturbing criminal history. Unfortunately, her police record was only the beginning of the nightmare.
Athans discovered that his blushing bride was already married to two other men and had committed bigamy by marrying for a third time without ever legally divorcing. Outraged, he filed for divorce just two months after their sham marriage. Subsequently, Parchem was arrested and jailed for bigamy. However, instead of simply dissolving their illegal union and holding Parchem accountable for her crimes, a judge is rewarding her behavior.
According to KPRC, Montgomery County Court Judge Patrice McDonald has refused to see any evidence of Parchem’s bigamy and upheld a ruling that Athans must pay his bigamist ex $96,000 in alimony as well as her court costs and lawyer fees or face jail, which totals up to $3,000 a month. Despite the fact that federal and state laws maintain that marriages conducted while one of the parties are still married are invalid, Judge McDonald has ignored Parchem's bigamy charges.
"It was just a lot of deception that was not making sense to me,” Athans said. “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. But the thing that worries us is she's hurting all of us. She's hurting you, she's hurting our family. What did we do to deserve that?”
Incredibly, Judge McDonald would not allow Athans and his attorney to introduce evidence showing that Parchem had been indicted on bigamy. Additionally, she blocked Parchem's legal husband, Trevor Hendry, from testifying that he is still married to the woman.
Although he faces losing his career and life savings, Athans is more worried about what will happen to his son. He is concerned that going to jail will leave his autistic son without anyone to help him since he is his sole caregiver.
"What am I supposed to tell my son? 'I'm sorry, son, but I've got to go to jail for 18 months,'" Athans said. "I'm not trapped. 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.”
In a desperate bid to resolve the nightmare court ruling, Athans has made one final plea to his ex. To prove that their marriage was never valid, he's asking Parchem to prove that she's legally divorced from her two other husbands.
"There is an easy solution to this problem," Athans said. "Charity, show your divorce records."
For now, Judge McDonald has remained mum on her controversial ruling. She only explained that she wouldn't comment on the case since it is still open under her jurisdiction, according to ABC 13.
Although Athans has appealed Judge McDonald's ruling, he is still ordered to pay the $3,000 per month in alimony and court fees to Parchem while the case is pending. Disturbingly, there's no guarantee that, even if he makes it into court without going to jail, his appeal will be granted.
For now, Parchem will be allowed to collect thousands of dollars from an innocent man she emotionally and financially conned. Hopefully, this story will spread far and wide, placing pressure on the judge to do the right thing.