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Posted: 4/15/2002 6:37:08 AM EDT
Los Angeles Times: DNA Shakes Up Child Support Law [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-041502dads.story[/url] DNA Shakes Up Child Support Law Rights: System is challenged by men forced to pay for children who are not theirs. By NICHOLAS RICCARDI Times Staff Writer April 15 2002 Advances in DNA testing have liberated convicts from death row and helped clear up scores of unsolved mysteries, but they have been slower to release men from obligations to pay child support in cases where the tests show they are not the biological father. Instead of resolving some of those cases, DNA has plunged the area of child support and paternal obligation into complicated new debate over the law and issues as profound as what it means to be a father. Bert Riddick's three children cram into one room in his brother-in-law's house in Carson because Riddick is required by a court order to pay child support for a girl he has never met and who is not his own. The result is that Riddick cannot afford to provide for his biological children. A similar order sent Dennis Caron to an Ohio jail for 30 days because he refused to pay child support for a boy who DNA tests showed was not his own. And in the case of Carnell Smith of Decatur, Ga., a $120,000 child-support bill for an ex-girlfriend's offspring who did not belong to him caused Smith to double-check the paternity of his wife's new baby with another DNA test. "Ninety-nine point nine-nine-nine percent mine," Smith said proudly. The three men share more than a legal dilemma. They belong to a loose-knit movement of fathers who are gradually reshaping child-support laws in state after state so that men who can prove they did not father children can avoid paying for them. In doing so, they have raised new issues about the legal system's role in defining the rights and responsibilities of those men who are deemed fathers by the courts, only to have those rulings later challenged by new scientific evidence. Assemblyman Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles), author of a paternity reform bill slated to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, said payments sometimes take a hefty chunk of a man's earnings. "It ain't his baby and we know it ain't his baby and here we're hitting him for 60% of his salary," Wright said. "In any other area of law, if that happened, that would be fraud. We'd be going out and screaming bloody murder." But while Wright highlights the injustice of forcing men to pay support for children who are not their own, some child-support advocates see a different danger. They say Wright's bill and similar ones in a dozen other states can harm children by letting men who have acted as fathers for years escape their obligations. -- continued --
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 6:38:18 AM EDT
"It's one of those things where the science has given us the ability to do something we maybe shouldn't do," said Paula Roberts of the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington. "What you're saying is that all a man is, in terms of a father to a child, is a sperm donor. . . . We think that's really bad social policy." The dilemma is created by legal tradition that holds that once a court has ruled that a man is the father of the child, the judgment must stand. If the man does not protest quickly enough, his only recourse is to pay support until the child turns 18. The number of men affected could be large, especially because child-support orders are often entered without the man appearing in court. Wright cites statistics from a 1999 study by the American Assn. of Blood Banks. That study found that of 280,000 blood tests performed to determine the paternity of children, 30% excluded the subject tested as being the father. In some cases, courts can order children to submit blood or tissue samples for DNA testing, but rules regarding when and how those tests may be used vary from state to state. "This is a clash between jurisprudence concepts rooted in English common law of a judgment being inviolate, versus 21st century science that has shown, well, sometimes we were wrong," said Steven Eldred, a deputy district attorney in Fresno County's child-support office. "This is a hot issue. Every state is going to have to deal with this." Several already have. Eight states have passed laws allowing men armed with DNA evidence to challenge paternity judgments. Legislation is making its way through at least four others, including California. Ohio's law passed its Legislature two years ago with only one dissenting vote. "People just said, 'Hey, gee, this is common sense,' " said Caron, a 45-year-old corporate recruiter who lives outside of Columbus and lobbied for the bill. "Why should some guy get the shaft like this when he isn't the father?" After a protracted divorce and custody battle, Caron in 1997 found through DNA testing that he was not the child's father. After testifying before the Ohio Legislature about the need for paternity reform, Caron was sentenced to 30 days in jail for refusing to pay child support. He was released when his ex-wife's new husband adopted the child. Congressmen Referred Constituents for Help The experience made him a child-support celebrity, and calls began coming in from desperate men. Caron says some congressmen have referred constituents to him for help. Caron's experience in Ohio gave Carnell Smith hope. The 41-year-old engineer read about Caron on the Internet after becoming embroiled in his own child-support battle. For years, Smith said, he helped raise the daughter of a former girlfriend who had told him the child was his. But parishioners at his church advised him to demand a DNA test after the woman pressed him for child support. -- continued --
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 6:39:23 AM EDT
In April 2000, Smith said, he was excluded as the father by a DNA test. But the judge ordered him to pay anyway. It was then that he took to the Internet, reasoning that there must be other men in his situation. He found Caron and obtained a copy of Ohio's legislation, which he carried to the home of his assemblyman in Decatur. Georgia's law passed both houses of the Legislature earlier this year, and the two bodies are working to reconcile technical issues. Smith, meanwhile, has started an online group to spread what he calls "anti-paternity fraud" statutes across the country. "I've declared war on this issue," said Smith, estimating that he has spoken to nearly 1,000 people. "I want to make sure my son doesn't face this same system." Both Smith and Caron had acted as the children's fathers before discovering that they had no biological connection and refusing to pay child support. That troubles many critics of the new statutes. They argue that being a father is more about acting as one than producing a genetic match. "You cannot have guys who functioned as some kid's father for 12 years going in and saying, because of some test, all right, I'm off the hook," said attorney Jenny Skoble, director of the child-support project at the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law in Los Angeles. "Yes, for the guy who's acted as the father of a child for 12 years who finds out that he's not the dad, it's a drag to have to pay the child support. But it's more of a drag for the child to lose the only father he or she has ever known," she said. Smith said child-support advocates like Skoble miss the point. "Once the problem has already happened, it's like throwing a cluster bomb in the room—everybody's going to be hurt," he said. "But two people are walking away with no responsibility at all—the biological mother and the biological father. They had their fun, now they walk away." In the summer of 2000, the Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a nonprofit group that proposes legislation to be adopted by states, wrestled with the question of whether men who are not biological fathers should pay child support. Roberts, of the Center for Law and Social Policy, said the group agonized over the issue. It ultimately concluded that after a child's second birthday, the harm of losing a father would outweigh the harm of a man paying to support a child who was not his own. "We concluded there was always going to be a set of cases where, no matter how you came down, you were going to feel badly," Roberts said. "But if your focus was on the child, at the end of the day you decided the adults in this relationship are just going to have to suck it up." -- continued --
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 6:40:02 AM EDT
Texas and West Virginia adopted laws modeled on the conference's recommendation, requiring that men have only two years after the birth of a child to challenge paternity in child-support cases, Roberts said. But other states, including Ohio, Maryland and Alabama, do not have limits on when a man can challenge a paternity judgment. Nor does Wright's bill in California, although it would not allow the contesting of paternity if the man had previously admitted it in court while represented by an attorney. Wright said he tailored his bill to apply to men who never appeared in court to fight their child support orders—sometimes because they were not properly served, a common problem in California child support—and only later discover that they are being billed for a child who is not their own. In other words, the legislation is written to help men like Bert Riddick. Riddick said he was just about to leave on a business trip in 1991 when he found out that an ex-girlfriend had named him as the father of her newborn child. His then-fiancee had received the summons at their home and hid it in anger. Riddick went on his trip and missed the hearing. When the district attorney's office began to garnish his wages, Riddick pleaded for relief, but was told there was nothing he could do. As the bills mounted, Riddick could not support his new, growing family. His car was repossessed. His new wife went on welfare after having their second child. They were evicted from the Torrance house they rented and moved in with the wife's brother. And Riddick began going from job to job, enjoying a full paycheck for a few weeks before the child support office found he had new employment and began to garnish his wages. After Riddick was featured in a Times series on problems with child support in Los Angeles, his phone began to ring. He became a fixture on television news magazine shows and assembled a list of other men in his circumstance. But he was unable to escape the child-support debt. Learned About Others While Searching Web Last year, he found out about Caron, Smith and others while searching the Internet. He contacted Wright, who has backed several fathers' rights bills. Riddick and two other activists secured a midsummer meeting with a key Wright aide in a Burbank hotel. "I know it's complicated," Riddick said of the issues. "The women's rights groups still have this thing where they start the speech with 'the best interests of the child.' My response to that is, the best interests of whose child? My children are suffering now." Roberts, of the Center for Law and Social Policy, acknowledged that, like many DNA cases, Riddick's is a tough one. Still, she said, the fault is his for missing that hearing 11 years ago. "This is the ultimate Solomon's baby situation," Roberts said. "There is no way that someone is going to come out not feeling they've been wronged."
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 6:40:40 AM EDT
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 7:01:05 AM EDT
This sad state of affairs really pisses me off. I read of one case where a woman put down an ex-boyfriend as the husband of her kids on a form so she could get welfare. It was not the guy's kids. Later, he was charged and jailed for failure to pay child support by some gung-ho, moron D.A. The women know who the fathers are, and they should be required to provide the info under heavy penalty of perjury. I have no problem with "dead-beat dad" laws, how about a few "dead-beat mom" laws?
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 7:03:10 AM EDT
Right.... "Texas and West Virginia adopted laws modeled on the conference's recommendation, requiring that men have only two years after the birth of a child to challenge paternity in child-support cases," The woman lies to the man. As long as she conceals the lie for no less than 2 years, he is now the 'father' for the next 16 years. His reward for being deceived is a garnished paycheck. We are rewarding liars, cheats, and adulterers with this law. Amazing. If DNA can prove you are not the murderer, then why can it not prove you are NOT the father? Period. TheRedGoat
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 7:16:38 AM EDT
These laws are not logical, just like gun laws, they are based on feelings; notice, how would a child "feel" if the person called "dad" is not really dad anymore. To truly fair if the man is not the father why should he pay child-support for someone else's child. The woman today are not helpless. They have a sundry of different laws slanted toward them based on a stay-at-home mom raising a family.
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 7:22:19 AM EDT
How about this? Don't go around having sex with everything that moves or with unscrupulous women! And I'm not talking about in the Liberal/Clintonista way of "not having sex." Keep it in your pants, and she can't claim you were the father without you knowing it's bullshit. Or, go get yourself fixed, though I know a guy who fathered three kids after getting fixed because they did it wrong. As I told the girl I got to third base with in middle school after she told me she was pregnant, "You don't get pregnant from what we did, so shouldn't you be having this conversation with someone else?" God Bless Texas
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 7:31:51 AM EDT
marvl: In some cases, a woman cannot get welfare unless she identifies the father. She may not even know the names of several sex partners she had in one month -- so she picks one. Child support enforcement DOES NOT CARE if a man's life is destroyed because he has to pay 60% of his after-tax income to the [aleged] mother of his kids. Their goal is to make SOMEBODY, ANYBODY pay; and keep the woman off AFDC (which unlike welfare, can last 18 years). To me it is absolute. If you are not the father, you should not have to pay. What about the girlfriend or wife that has an affair and lies. You get stuck with the bill. They would probably name the man with the most income to maximize their profit. Have 1 or 2 kids in California and you can have a very nice income for 19 years without lifting a finger. In short, it's BS. It's not about love, it's about money and ripping off some poor guy who though some lying, cheating bitch loved him. Hah!
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 8:33:31 AM EDT
It doesn't suprise me that women are the ones who, 99% of the time, are giving us that bullshit about "being a father is more than just giving sperm" blah blah blah. How disgusting and sad is it that the pricks who knock up these sluts (who some poor sap thought was his wife or girlfriend) get to walk away, and so does the whorish woman who had the kid and said it was that of the innocent man. What's worse is that chicken-shit legislators (that being the "men") are too scared to change the laws for fear of being hounded by the man hating, agenda of rage, bitter, hardcore feminists. Best interests of the child? To hell with the child, what about the poor guy, and HIS REAL new kids, his wife, his family? Absolutely infuriating. I'm disturbed by the relative lack of concern and general apathy on this matter from men in general. Another thing that makes me sick is that if this was somehow a fight for women, like "equal pay" people (read: women) everywhere would be screaming and demanding change, yet all the while saying that they "just want equality". Yeah, equality my ass! [pissed][pissed][pissed][pissed][pissed]
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 9:06:43 AM EDT
Guess I should feel lucky that I'm only paying 35% of my net pay for one child. Is this a common thing that these agencies need to take all the income from a father, like a penalty for this? My ex has not let me see my child for 14 years and I still have to pay $1000 a month for support. I know that it does not cost $1000 a month to raise one child in rural Colorado, when she owns her own property and trailer that her father gave her. Of course, she weighs 350 to 400lbs and uses most of that cash for food for herself. When I married her she was 120. I have no cash for guns now. My Jeep payment is close to $600. I end up with a couple of hundred a month for food and frivolities. It really sucks because I have no money to fight it. I have no money to get visitation rights that I already have, but need the court in CO to enforce. What can you do?
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 9:20:58 AM EDT
Originally Posted By marvl: This sad state of affairs really pisses me off. I read of one case where a woman put down an ex-boyfriend as the husband of her kids on a form so she could get welfare. It was not the guy's kids. Later, he was charged and jailed for failure to pay child support by some gung-ho, moron D.A. The women know who the fathers are, and they should be required to provide the info under heavy penalty of perjury. I have no problem with "dead-beat dad" laws, how about a few "dead-beat mom" laws?
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No kidding! Makes me sick that the hyper-PC crowd has little if no recognition of mens rights. God forbid anyone ask some of these women to take basic responsibility before crucifying some poor guy for child support for 18 years.
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 9:26:34 AM EDT
Originally Posted By warlord: These laws are not logical, just like gun laws, they are based on feelings; notice, how would a child "feel" if the person called "dad" is not really dad anymore.
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That's a good question actually, and one that the woman who lied should be responsible for settling up on. Don't have the real father? No problem....we'll just hammer the guy you point the finger at.....no.....don't worry your pretty little self ma'am.....we'll drag him in to court and dock his wages for 18 years. You just tell us whose reputation and bank account you want us to attack and consider it done. What total, complete PC bullshit this is.
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 5:17:18 PM EDT
Originally Posted By GodBlessTexas: How about this? Don't go around having sex with everything that moves or with unscrupulous women! And I'm not talking about in the Liberal/Clintonista way of "not having sex." Keep it in your pants, and she can't claim you were the father without you knowing it's bullshit. Or, go get yourself fixed, though I know a guy who fathered three kids after getting fixed because they did it wrong. God Bless Texas
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I realize that, being from Texas, you have a God-given excuse for being so fucking stupid, but did you stop to consider that these men were deceived by women they trusted? Let's not forget the one -- not mentioned in the LA Times article quoted here, but it's been mentioned in others -- in which the man was picked at random by a woman he had never met, who named him as the father, and who ended up getting shafted by the courts.
Link Posted: 4/15/2002 10:03:25 PM EDT
Without conceding any validity to the examples used as arguments against men's rights, did you notice that they are trying to confine the debate to only situations where the men were described as (wrongly) being told / believing that they were the father? And they treated the child as their own? There's no mystery why they are trying to shape the debate that way. It's because in all OTHER cases, they have absolutely no rational grounds for trying to hold the putative father responsible. I question whether this is the majority or even a significant fraction of the cases where paternity was 'established" & is later in doubt: Let's try a few other more likely scenarios: 1. Man knows & had sex with the mother, is named as the father and though he has serious doubts, doesn't have the resources to get decent legal representation, or is talked out of the DNA test. Nailed for suppport, even if he's never seen the kid. 2. Man finds out wife is having affair, files for divorce, but the other man's child is found to legally be his responsibility because the child was born during the marriage or (in PRK) within 300 days after the divorce is final. Husband is presumed to be the father & unless he can establish another guy as the biological parent, he is s-c-r-e-w-ed. 3. Man breaks up with GF, she turns out to be pregnant by her 'back-door man' but never tells him, has his name put on birth certificate, 5 years later they are out of touch, she files for welfare, and D.A. gets no answer at last known address. D.A 'serves' "father" by 'publication', though by now he's at the other end of the state. Hearing is held in father's absence & judge determines his paternity and orders child support. They find him later. Now he's in arrears and a "deadbeat dad". These are the kind of cases the people like "Paula Roberts of the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington," and "Jenny Skoble, director of the child-support project at the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law in Los Angeles" don't want to bring into the discussion, so they try to redirect the attention to the relatively infrequent cases where "daddy" has embraced a kid, not knowing that he isn't the biological parent.
Link Posted: 4/16/2002 9:12:00 AM EDT
Isn't it odd how they can never find the aleged father to properly serve him (so he can defend himself in court), but they always find him after a judgement is entered and they want his money . . .
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