Posts filed under ‘Paternity Fraud’

Childless Men Jailed for Non-payment of Child Support

By Jeffery M. Leving

Frank Hatley spent the past year in Cook County jail in South Georgia for falling behind in child support payments. However, as the court was aware, he had no children according to court documents. A DNA test even confirmed that there was no chance he was the father.

Walter Sharpe, from Philadelphia, was forced to pay more than $12,000 in child support for another man’s daughter. He spent two years in jail for falling behind in child support payments. Sharpe’s Petitions filed for DNA testing were denied by the judge. However, the paternity order against him was finally overturned after the girl’s mother failed to show up to a court hearing.

Paternity Fraud victims need justice. Our system is broken.

A report issued by the American Association of Blood Banks found that nearly 30 percent of paternity tests conducted in the U.S. reveal that the man being tested is not the biological father. Partially as a result of the availability of DNA paternity testing, thousands of fathers are discovering that “their” child is someone else’s. But, many of these “duped dads” continue to be responsible for the payment of child support or suffer the consequences of jail.

Too many states adhere to an archaic 500-year-old English common-law doctrine that a married man is always legally presumed the father of a child born of the marriage, even if he is not the biological father. Unmarried men can be court ordered to pay child support for children they did not father through default paternity and child support judgments. Such judgments can be court ordered without the alleged father’s knowledge.

Ignoring paternity fraud is not different than ignoring DNA testing showing a convicted murderer wasn’t guilty. It’s time to correct this injustice. Paternity fraud is just as reprehensible as any other kind of fraud from which the public needs protection.

Tony Jackson is a California father who had to work two jobs to pay back approximately $13,000 in back child support for a child proven by DNA testing not to be his. It’s time to release men like Jackson from this blatant injustice.

Opponents of paternity fraud legislation needed to correct this problem say we must prevent “duped dads” from abandoning children that are not theirs biologically. In many cases I’ve seen, the “duped dad” does not want to abandon the child he has come to love as his own. It was the system that drove him off as well as the biological father. For example, in one outrageous case in Texas, the judge ordered a man to pay child support for another man’s three children and cut off his visitation with all of the children.

Who is really hurting the children in cases such as this?

To those who say children will be left unsupported if men are not forced to pay support, I say that the men who should support the children should be the biological fathers. Making men pay child support for children proven by DNA testing not to be theirs is not in the best interests of children and families. It can also deprive children of ever knowing their true biological fathers.

The real fear underlying the arguments of many of the dwindling number of opponents of this legislation is losing a cash cow for agencies and institutions that benefit financially by preserving the status quo. In reality, it has little to do with protecting the interests of children.

States benefit by collecting financial incentive payments from the federal government for child support collected. It is easier for child support agencies to financially squeeze the “duped dad” than to find the biological dad, who may not even know he has a child and would welcome the opportunity to step up to the plate and be Dad.

I encourage all state legislatures to pass fair paternity fraud bills requiring courts to order DNA testing when requested. I also encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the next Paternity Fraud case that comes before it. A correct ruling by the high court would speed justice along for everyone. This is clearly what is right.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s leading family law attorneys. He is the founder of dadsrights.com.

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July 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm 1 comment

Military Service Costs Some Men Their Children

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By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks

Laws granting deployed soldiers special protections against civil legal actions date back to the Civil War. However, few of these protections extend to family courts and family law. As a result, military men’s service to their country often creates the conditions under which they can become victims of terrible injustices. As America’s military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan persist, it is important to address the family law issues which military men and fathers face.

Some military men’s service costs them their children. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provides that if a parent moves a child to a new state, that new state becomes the child’s presumptive residence after only six months. Because a normal military deployment is six months or more, if a military spouse moves to another state while her spouse is deployed, by the time the deployed spouse returns the child’s residence has been switched, and the spouse who moved the child is virtually certain to gain custody through the divorce proceedings in that new state.

The restrictions on military personnel’s ability to travel, the high cost of legal representation, and the financial hardships created by child support and spousal support obligations make it difficult for returning service personnel to fight for their parental rights in another state. Many struggle to even see their children, much less remain a meaningful part of their lives.

To solve the problem, the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) (formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act) must be amended to specifically prohibit the spouses of active duty military personnel from permanently moving children to another state without the permission of the active duty military spouse or of a court. In addition, the UCCJEA needs to be modified to state that the presumption of new residence does not apply if the children are taken in this wrongful fashion.

Another family law problem for military fathers is paternity fraud. According to Carnell Smith, Executive Director of the National Family Justice Association, deployed soldiers are often “targeted and preyed upon” by unscrupulous “father shoppers” who falsely designate absent military men as the fathers of their newborns. He says:

“The military provides a steady, easily garnished income as well as medical care for the baby. It’s hard to contest paternity when you’re thousands of miles away and losing a good chunk of your income to child support. Sometimes the guy ends up on the hook for 18 years of child support simply because he served his country.”

Several states, including Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, and Ohio, have addressed the problem through legislation which allows putative fathers more time and greater judicial flexibility to challenge paternity findings.

A third family law problem exists for fathers who serve as reservists and who have child support orders. Support orders are based on civilian pay, which is generally higher than active duty pay. When called up, a reservist sometimes pays an impossibly high percentage of his income in child support, which hurts his current family. Because those who fall behind in child support are charged stiff interest and penalties, a returning reservist may spend years working to pay off arrearages incurred during his service overseas. Worse, some could even face arrest and incarceration.

Normally when an obligor loses his job or suffers a pay cut he can go to court and request a downward modification. However, since reservists are sometimes mobilized with as little as one day’s notice, few are able to obtain modifications before they leave. These soldiers cannot get relief when they return home because the federal Bradley Amendment prevents judges from retroactively forgiving support.

The solution is legislation like Missouri’s, which requires that reservists’ support obligations be automatically adjusted when they are called up for active duty. The Illinois legislature is currently considering a bill to address this issue.

Navy veteran Taron James, who has joined with 600 other victimized veterans and their families to form the activist group Veterans Fighting Paternity Fraud, believes the injustices caused by current domestic relations law constitute a breach of faith with military men and fathers. He says:

“It’s understood that when soldiers go off to serve they shouldn’t have to worry about being taken advantage of while they’re absent. Some of the guys making sacrifices abroad while being put through the ringer here at home must be wondering why they bothered.”
 

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at www.GlennSacks.com or via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.

Jeff Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. Visit his website at www.DadsRights.com.

March 5, 2009 at 6:27 pm 1 comment


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