The West Virginia courts played Santa Claus last week for Deborah L. Rogers, making this the first Christmas in years that she won't need a bank loan to buy gifts for her three teen-agers.
Before the courts intervened, all she had was a drawerful of court orders for $300-a-month child support from her ex-husband, Michael E. Rogers of Edgemere, who hit the Maryland lottery for $3 million in April.
A West Virginia family law master last week increased the monthly child support payment to $3,246 and ordered Mr. Rogers to pay $5,000 of nearly $19,000 in back payments by Dec. 18. The decision came after a Monongalia County Circuit Court judge on Dec. 3 found him in contempt of court.
In Morgantown last week, with cash in hand, Mrs. Rogers said the turn of events left her "kind of dumbfounded."
"I didn't have any shopping done because I didn't know whether I'd really get the money," she said. "I just could not get into the Christmas spirit.
"One of the girls at work said to put things on layaway, but what do I do if he didn't come through? We'd been to court eight times. The last time they told him he might visit the county jail."
Maryland Lotto officials said they didn't know about the child support, although such obligations are supposed to be reported so the payout can be intercepted. Under the West Virginia court order, future payments are to be sent to an attorney for Mr. Rogers and the child support deducted first.
Mr. Rogers, 39, declined to say whether he would fight the West Virginia court findings. He said he was not behind on previous child support payments or his share of medical expenses.
He also insisted again that his current wife, Carolyn, bought the lottery ticket. The court found that he signed the ticket and is listed as the sole winner on the Maryland annuity schedule and beneficiary form.
"I'm not a deadbeat father," Mr. Rogers said vehemently. "I was on Social Security [disability] and she got payments. . . . In West Virginia, that office is in chaos.
"Till Carolyn hit the lottery, I heard nothing from the woman," he said of his former wife. "Please say . . . I love my three children, no matter what these ignorant people in this ignorant town think," he said, referring to Morgantown.
The yearly lottery payment after taxes is about $96,000, he said.
Mrs. Rogers, 37, lives with her widowed mother and makes about $200 a week working the night shift at a nursing home.
The last couple of years, I've gone to the bank and borrowed money for Christmas," she said. "I have to get busy now."
Her gift list tilts toward the practical: a bedroom suite for daughters Tonya, 17, and Trisha, 16; coats; boots; and such.
AShawn, 14, has his heart set on a CD player. Trisha, a straight-A student, has been wishing for a laptop computer. Tonya, the eldest, has a list of "little things" she needs.
"I'm excited my mom has the money," Trisha said. "Not to get more gifts, but to take some pressure off her. It's money she's had to spend in the past.
"We'll be able to exchange gifts with each other: It's going to be a very different Christmas."
Shawn said, "I just think it's great that she got it. It doesn't even matter that it's Christmas -- just that she's getting paid back for all those years."
But he said he still feels as he did upon learning of his father's new wealth: "I'm kind of excited that it happened to him -- but I wish it had happened to my mom."