A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘DNA’

Child Support, Prison & Crushing Debt

child support shacklesOf the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child-support obligation. For most, the debt will keep piling up throughout their imprisonment: By law or by practice, child-support agencies in much of the country consider incarceration a form of “voluntary impoverishment.” Parents like Harris, the logic goes, have only themselves to blame for not earning a living. But that may be about to change.

childsupportchart2016

What does this tell you about overdue child support?

Republicans opposed to new regulations

The Obama administration has authorized a new set of regulations that would reclassify incarceration as “involuntary,” giving parents the right to push the pause button on child-support payments. The regulations are set to be published early next year and implemented by states by 2017.

Congressional Republicans oppose the new policy. They argue that it would undercut the 1996 welfare reform act, which pressed states to locate missing fathers and bill them for child support so taxpayers wouldn’t bear the full burden of their children’s welfare. (What idiots, the debt can’t be paid anyway.)

“I am fundamentally opposed to policies that allow parents to abdicate their responsibilities, which, in turn, results in more families having to go on welfare,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a speech in June on the Senate floor. Obama’s new regulations, he said, “would undermine a key feature of welfare reform, which is that single mothers can avoid welfare if fathers comply with child-support orders.”

Frances Pardus-Abbadessa, head of child-support enforcement for New York City, said: “The complaint we often hear is, ‘Why should incarcerated fathers, of all people, be the ones to get a break from their obligations — and at a cost to the taxpayer?’ “

Administration officials and their supporters counter that billing fathers while they’re in prison does little but dig them deeper into debt.

“Billing poor fathers doesn’t help poor mothers and kids become less poor,” said Jacquelyn Boggess, a poverty expert with the Center for Family Policy and Practice.

“All it creates,” she said, “is a highly indebted individual.”

Debt piles up

For Earl Harris, the problem was keeping up. He had a job in prison, cleaning the kitchen, but it paid only $7.50 a month — well short of the $168 the state of Missouri was billing him.

“Didn’t they know I was in prison?” he asks. “Weren’t they the ones that put me in there?”

When he got out in 2001, the unpaid amount was listed on his credit report — and pursued by an agency with the power to garnish 65 percent of his wages, intercept his tax returns, freeze his bank account, suspend his driver’s license and, if he failed to pay, lock him up again. By then, his debt had surged to more than $10,000.

Harris entered barbering school but soon returned to drug dealing and was thrown back into prison for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, his child-support debt swelled to more than $25,000.

Incarceration currently deemed ‘voluntary’

Harris’s plight is not unusual. The Marshall Project interviewed nearly three dozen noncustodial parents in 10 states; they all left prison owing between $10,000 and $110,000 in child support. Mostly fathers who are disproportionately black and poor, these parents faced prosecution for not repaying the debt, even after their children were grown.

And what they were able to pay did not necessarily go to their children or the mother. The state often kept their money as repayment for welfare, child care or Medicaid benefits that had been provided to the family while the dad was locked up.

To address the issue, the Obama administration began drafting new rules about four years ago. As currently written, the rules would forbid state child-support agencies from classifying incarceration as “voluntary,” granting parents the legal right to a reduction in payments while they’re in prison, a right that does not exist in 14 states.

The rules would require agencies to inform incarcerated parents of this right and would encourage agencies to provide a reduction in payments automatically. And they would urge states to transfer all payments directly to custodial parents — mostly mothers — and their children.

The administration proposal would provide about $35 million over the next five years to modernize the child-support system and to provide job training, job placement, bus fare, and other services to fathers facing prosecution for nonpayment.

The rule “will make sure that arrears don’t accumulate endlessly while a parent is incarcerated,” said Vicki Turetsky, President Barack Obama’s commissioner of child-support enforcement. “Our goal is to collect, month by month, for kids. We can do that when parents are employed, not in debt.”

Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have introduced legislation to block the new rules, though neither lawmaker has pushed to advance the measure.

Ron Haskins, a child-support expert at the Brookings Institution, said he and other conservatives actually support parts of the new regulations. But they worry, he said, that the policy “could begin a long process of undermining the child-support concept, which they strongly believe in.”

The struggle after prison

Back in North St. Louis, Earl Harris, now 38, has put in his hours as an apprentice barber and is one written test away from getting his license. In the meantime, he is living in a halfway house and working at a factory across the river in Illinois, packaging Febreze canisters and Swiffer mops.

His hours are 4 p.m. to midnight, though he arrives an hour early to make sure he doesn’t lose his spot to another temp worker waiting outside the building in hopes of getting a shift. After work, he typically gets a cousin to drive him back to his dorm room, where he sleeps from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. before heading to his daily support group for fathers.

By 8 a.m. the dads are circled up, talking about having kids and debt. They have come because the program helps them find a job, develop strategies for handling their arrears and work on their parenting skills. They also get free legal help. Many of them were incarcerated, almost exclusively for selling drugs, and everyone is wearing a jacket and tie, the uniform of employment.

One father, Louis Moore, said his debt soared to almost $60,000 while he was inside. Allan Newcomer’s is more than $68,000. “Everybody in the penitentiaries was getting the letters,” Newcomer said.

Lisl Williams, a former judge who now works with the fathers, said even if they spend their money on food, clothes or toys for their children, it does not reduce their debt. In many cases, she said, the whole family — the mother, aunts, uncles, cousins — chips in to help pay it, and then the money they pay goes to the government as repayment for welfare they received long ago.

Because the fathers don’t have large incomes to garnish, bank accounts to tap or property to seize, she adds, they are more likely to face re-incarceration for not paying their arrears.

‘I know I’m the bad man’ (Oh, really?)

Another dad, Corey Mason, said he was incarcerated and already racking up child-support debt when he got a notice saying he might have another child by a different mother. He was instructed to go to the medical wing, get a DNA swab and send it to the agency. When they confirmed his paternity, he started getting a new set of child-support bills.

Mason sent several handwritten letters to the agency explaining that he was in prison. He said he never got a response. (So who is really bad? You know!)

Now that he’s out, Mason has a job at the Marriott hotel downtown. He works the graveyard shift, cleaning, shutting down the bar, providing towels to customers who ask for extra. Because the child-support agency garnishes well over half his weekly paycheck, he turned down a recent promotion.

“I want to grow in the company. But I don’t want to work that much harder if they’re just going to take all of it to pay for history,” Mason said.

“I know I’m the bad man. But I’m working harder now than I ever have, and it’s like this is designed to keep me behind, backed up against the wall, in debt for the rest of my life.” (Hear the defeat and fear? That’s what they want!)

Obama: ‘Too many fathers M.I.A, AWOL’

Obama has frequently scolded the same absentee fathers who now stand to benefit from his regulations. “Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” he told a Chicago audience in 2008 as a candidate for president.

Some fathers interviewed for this story had multiple children — one man said he had 12 — by different mothers. Many seemed less than eager to find employment. A few served time for domestic violence.

Some mothers say these men do not deserve to be freed of their debt.

“There’s a real tension here, as a matter of public policy,” said Joan Entmacher, an expert on family poverty at the National Women’s Law Center. “There are absolutely fathers who evade their responsibilities, saying, ‘Oh, I can’t pay that,’ and not even trying. We don’t want to simply reward that attitude.”

Even if a father is a deadbeat, however, the evidence is clear: Noncustodial fathers are far more likely to pay child support, and otherwise reengage with their families, if payments are manageable.

In a 2012 study by the Center for Policy Research, a private nonprofit research organization, fathers paid a much higher percentage of their monthly obligations when offered relief from unpayable state-owed debt. In studies in Maryland, Illinois and California, fewer than 15 percent remained noncompliant once the old debts were reduced and they were given a schedule of regular payments. And the fathers most likely to abide by “debt compromise” agreements were those who had been incarcerated.

Boggess, the child-support analyst, said that trying to collect the accumulated debt is “like squeezing an empty bottle and hoping something comes out.

“These fathers are poor, period. Their arrears are uncollectible, period,” she said. “They’ve never even met anyone who had $30,000.”

States taking action

Many states have already taken action. In 36 states and the District, incarceration is no longer officially considered “voluntary” impoverishment, and an imprisoned father is legally entitled to have his monthly child-support bill modified to as little as $50 a month or, in rare cases, stopped altogether.

But it is still up to the father to prove he is incarcerated, and then to file for the reduction. This involves navigating a maze of paperwork from prison, usually with no lawyer, irregular access to phones and, in many cases, an eighth- or ninth-grade education.

The most common pitfall, said Bo Twiggs, the director of UpNext, a program in New York City that helps recently incarcerated fathers, is that the incarcerated dad has no idea his child support is piling up because he isn’t getting the notices. The debt keeps compounding – and federal law prohibits the reduction of child-support bills retroactively.

“It’s hard for these fathers to understand that they can’t wait, they can’t adjust to life in prison before dealing with child support, that they need to take action immediately because the debt will be permanent,” Twiggs said. “That’s really counterintuitive.”

When these fathers get out of prison, they often don’t notice the debt until the state begins pursuing it, “which forces them to go underground instead of rejoining the formal economy,” said Turetsky, Obama’s commissioner of child-support enforcement.

Indeed, research shows that the two most important factors in a former prisoner’s successful reentry into the community are employment and positive relationships with family. Both of these are hindered by the aggressive pursuit of child-support arrears: Garnishing 65 percent of a father’s paycheck, so he is tempted to earn cash off the books; suspending his driver’s license so he can’t get to work; sending him bills that are so far beyond his capacity to pay that he keeps his distance from his family.

“I see it all the time,” Twiggs said: “Not reengaging with the family. Noncompliance with parole and child support. Under-the-table efforts at income. Self-defeat, high anxiety, general institutional distrust. All of that is triggered by this absolutely overwhelming, impossible feeling of debt.”

portions from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Child Support Tyrants Want You Sick or Dead

we the peopleAs you’re reading this, consider the tyranny of the current child support regime in the United States and other modernized countries. Of course, these tyrants are also trying to finger you as they seek to take away any presumption of civil rights and any due process that a human being should have. That is the world we are living in. Only you can begin to change it, by banding together…
By Dr. Mercola

gas canAnxiety over a project at work… a marital spat… financial trouble… health problems… the list of potential stressors is endless, but wherever your stress is coming from, it likely starts in your head.

An inkling of worry might soon grow into an avalanche of anxiety. It might keep you up at night, your mind racing with potential “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. Worse still, if the problem is ongoing, your stressed-out state may become your new normal — extra stress hormones, inflammation, and all.

While beneficial if you’re actually in imminent danger, that heightened state of stress – the one that makes your survival more likely in the event of an attack, for instance – is damaging over time.

The thoughts in your head are only the beginning or, perhaps more aptly, are the wheels that set the harmful mechanism known as chronic stress into motion – and, once spinning, it’s very easy to spiral out of control. As reported in Science News:

“Stress research gained traction with a master stroke of health science called the Whitehall Study, in which British researchers showed that stressed workers were suffering ill effects.

Scientists have since described how a stressed brain triggers rampant hormone release, which leads to imbalanced immunity and long-term physical wear and tear. Those effects take a toll quite apart from the anxiety and other psychological challenges that stressed individuals
deal with day to day.”

Stress: It’s Not Just in Your Head

empty-pockets-robbed-court-orderYou know the saying “when it rains, it pours”? This is a good description of chronic stress in your body, because it makes virtually everything harder. The term psychological stress is, in fact, misleading, because no stress is solely psychological… it’s not all in your head.

Let’s say you lose your job or are struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from abuse you suffered as a child. Excess stress hormones are released, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Your stress response becomes imbalanced; it’s not shutting off.

Your immune system suffers as a result, and epigenetic changes are rapidly occurring. The stress is triggering systemic low-grade inflammation, and suddenly your blood pressure is up, your asthma is flaring, and you keep getting colds.

That cut on your leg just doesn’t seem to want to heal, and your skin is a mess. You’re having trouble sleeping and, on an emotional level, you feel like you’re nearing burnout.

Stress is very much like a snowball rolling down a mountain, gaining momentum, gaining speed and growing until suddenly it crashes. That crash, unfortunately, is often at the expense of your health.

Stress Increases Heart Attack Risk by 21-Fold

tombstonePolice officers clearly face amplified stress on the job, and researchers found they were 21 times more likely to die of a heart attack during an altercation than during routine activities. This isn’t entirely surprising until you compare it to heart-attack risk during physical training, which increased only seven fold.

The difference in physical exertion between the two circumstances likely doesn’t account for the increased risk… it’s the level of stress being experienced that sends heart attack risk through the roof.

More heart attacks and other cardiovascular events also occur on Mondays than any other day of the week. This “Monday cardiac phenomenon” has been recognized for some time, and has long been believed to be related to work stress.

During moments of high stress, your body releases hormones such as norepinephrine, which the researchers believe can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of your arteries. This dispersal can allow plaque deposits to suddenly break loose, thereby triggering a heart attack.

Stress contributes to heart disease in other ways as well. Besides norepinephrine, your body also releases other stress hormones that prepare your body to either fight or flee. One such stress hormone is cortisol.

When stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes increasingly desensitized to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control. Chronic inflammation is a hallmark not only of heart disease but many chronic diseases.

Stress Linked to Diabetes & a Dozen Other Serious Consequences

homelessPeople who grow up in poor socioeconomic conditions have higher levels of inflammatory markers, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). They’re also twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults, a risk researchers say is partly due to the elevated inflammation.

People who suffered child abuse also tend to have higher levels of chronic inflammation, as do those who act as caregivers for loved ones. As reported in Science News:

“Scientists are now digging deeper, sorting through changes in gene activity that underlie inflammation and receptor shutdown. For example, childhood stress might get embedded in immune cells called macrophages through epigenetic changes — alterations that affect the activity levels of genes without changing the underlying
DNA.

Psychologist Gregory Miller of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., suggests that these changes can endow the macrophages with pro-inflammatory tendencies that later foster chronic diseases.”

Prolonged stress can also damage your brain cells and make you lose the capacity to remember things. The brain cells of stressed rats are dramatically smaller, especially in the area of their hippocampus, which is the seat of learning and memory.

Stress disrupts your neuroendocrine and immune systems and appears to trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer’s disease. Stress-induced weight gain is also real and typically involves an increase in belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat for your body to accumulate, and increases your cardiovascular risk.

Stress alters the way fat is deposited because of the specific hormones and other chemicals your body produces when you’re stressed. Stress clearly affects virtually your whole body, but according to neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, the following are the most common health conditions that are
caused by or worsened by stress:

Cardiovascular disease
Hypertension
Depression
Anxiety
Sexual Dysfunction
Infertility and Irregular Cycles
Frequent Colds
Insomnia and Fatigue
Trouble Concentrating
Memory Loss
Appetite Changes
Digestive Problems

Stress Can Cause Stomach Disorders

chronic-stressDigestive problems made Dr. Sapolsky’s list above, which makes sense because the stress response causes a number of detrimental events in your gut, including:

Decreased nutrient absorption

Decreased oxygenation to your gut

As much as four times less blood flow to your digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism

Decreased enzymatic output in your gut – as much as 20,000-fold!
To put it simply, chronic stress (and other negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness) can trigger symptoms and full-blown disease in your gut.

As Harvard researchers explain:

“Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection. In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.”

Interestingly, the connection works both ways, meaning that while stress can cause gut problems, gut problems can also wreak havoc on your emotions. The Harvard researchers continue:

“This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.”

Stress Changes Immune Response and Cell Behavior

baby moneyStress is implicated in cancer, not so much as a cause of cancer but because it seems to fuel its growth (or interfere with processes that might otherwise slow it down). For instance, the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine encourage the growth of blood vessels that help prostate tumors to grow. Meanwhile, in women with pelvic growths (who were awaiting tests to see if the growths were cancerous or benign), those with good social support (and presumably therefore less stress) had more immune attack cells directed at the masses, Science News reported.

Stress has also been shown to increase the likelihood of cancer spreading, or metastasis, which is a major cause of cancer death, by 30-fold. Chronic stress also leads to disrupted cortisol signaling. In the case of excess cortisol exposure, some cell receptors become muted, including receptors on immune cells. This is one reason why people under stress are about twice as likely to develop a cold after exposure to a cold virus, compared to non-stressed people.

Factors That Make Stress Worse

Dr. Sapolsky explains that you are more vulnerable to stress if the following factors are true:

You feel like you have no control

You’re not getting any predictive information
(how bad the challenge is going to be, how long it will go on, etc.)

You feel you have no way out

You interpret things as getting worse

You have no “shoulder to cry on”
(e.g., lack of social affiliation or support)

People at the top of the social pyramid feel a greater sense of control because they are the ones who call the shots, as well as typically having more social connections and resources at their disposal. This results in less stress, which over the long run translates to lower rates of disease. Stress is also closely related to the experience of pleasure, related to the binding of dopamine to pleasure receptors in your brain. People of lower socioeconomic status appear to derive less pleasure from their lives. Perhaps this is why laughter therapy is so effective at relieving stress.

On the brighter side, positive emotions like happiness, hope, and optimism also prompt changes in your body’s cells, even triggering the release of feel-good brain chemicals. While you can create happiness artificially (and temporarily) by taking drugs or drinking alcohol, for instance, the same endorphin and dopamine high can be achieved via healthy habits like exercise, laughter, hugging and kissing, sex, or bonding with your child. If you’re wondering just how powerful and effective this can be, a 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body

Lower Heart Disease Risk
Stress Reduction
Fight Fatigue
Boost Immune System
Fight Infections
Ease Depression

———

Are you getting the point? Tyrants are shortening your life.

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Deadbeat Dad not even a Dad

by Charlie Mitchell

“Is it working?” That’s an easy question most of the time. Problem is, when lawmakers and regulation writers fix something broken, they rarely ask. They stick to their fix whether it works or not.

Alaexander-child-support-victimConsider the predicament of Carnell Alexander.

In 1991, Alexander, who lives in Michigan, was pulled over for a traffic violation. When police “ran” his license, an arrest warrant popped up. Nonpayment of child support. Cuffed, taken to jail.

Talk about ruining your day.

It seems an ex-girlfriend had identified him as the father of her son who was born in 1978.

He didn’t think he could be the father, so when he posted bond he decided to find her. She wasn’t at the address in any of the public records. He knew her legal name may have changed and he couldn’t afford a private investigator.

He was on his own. Eventually, they met. “Well, no,” she said (or something like that) when he asked if he had a son. The mom confessed that she had become lean of funds and applied for public benefits. The paperwork required she name the father of her child. She didn’t mean any harm, but no name, no check. She felt she had no choice. And she was sorry, by the way. Paternity tests confirmed Alexander was not the father.

Same fate could await many, many men in Mississippi.

Now, there are a more twists and turns in the facts of the Michigan case, but we’ve got enough for now.

Let’s look at this from the viewpoint of those who decided a mom could not get a check unless the name of a dad was provided.

That’s a reasonable rule, isn’t it?

Why should taxpayers subsidize clothing, food and housing for a child when a biological parent, perhaps with a fat paycheck, has danced away?

Lots of dads do. Welfare rolls could be chopped if more men would be men and meet the obligations that come with parenthood.

It was a good fix. If it worked.

Back to Alexander. The state insists it tried to serve him with court papers, but the person paid to provide the summons lied about it. He wasn’t served. (Seems to be a lot of lying in Michigan.)

When Alexander did go before a judge, most recently in February, she refused to laugh it all off and send him on his way. Instead, she ruled that because so much time had passed he might have to pay the state $30,000 for aid to a child that is not his, that he didn’t know existed for more than 10 years and is now, what, 37 years old? There’s also some discrepancy in the paperwork; perhaps at one time in some way he did agree to support the child, but likely before the paternity test ruled him out.

Slippery slopes leading to nonsensical conclusions are not at all unusual in a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy. Explosive program growth is part of this, too.

Desires to help lead to programs, programs lead to rules and then the rules need rules. The premise that a child should not go hungry is valid. The premise that parents, if able, must support their own children is valid. Rarely, however, does the machinery of government take a step back to see (1) if desired goals are being met and (2) if not, why not.

Instead, more and more rules are created and less and less efficiency results. No one understands the IRS Code. The document containing the law, rules, regulations and interpretations of federal tax law is 70,000 pages. The average Bible is 900; the U.S. Constitution could easily fit on 12. Social Security kicked off as a required pension plan with contributions returned to retirees. It was never to cost a penny of public funds, but is running deficits of about $77 billion each year.

The takeaway, of course, is that in ways large and small good ideas don’t always pan out or, said another way, fail to perform as intended.

Some legal scholars now advocate every new law at every level of governance contain an automatic repeal — forcing a review.

Not a bad idea.

But Alexander has no time for abstractions. He’s still got that $30,000 debt hanging over him. “I feel like I’m standing in front of a brick wall with nowhere to go,” he said.

Regulators may propose mandatory paternity tests going forward, but that adds time, expense, confusion expense and more complications.

Another fix to fix the fix of the fix.

Man Forced to Pay Child Support for Kid Who Isn’t Even His

by Linda Fogarty

black-dadThere are a lot of good guys out there. Men who will step up to the plate and treat children who aren’t theirs as if they are their own. But, as one dad from North Carolina is learning after being told he has to pay child support for a child he didn’t father, some will take advantage of kindness.

Allow me to explain this somewhat complicated story. Randall Smith met, fell in love with, and married a woman shortly after he was hospitalized with lymphoma. Not long after their wedding, she came to him with some happy news—she was pregnant—hip-hip hurray, right?

Eh, not so fast. Smith had a vasectomy years before her announcement. We all know what that means, right?

Shocked beyond belief, we’re sure, Smith made an appointment with his urologist, who confirmed that he didn’t actually have sperm.

dollar bondageInstead of high-tailing it out of his marriage, he stuck around and showed he was more committed to his wife than most would have been if they were in this same position. He promised to raise the child as if he were his own, but says he also made it clear that if they ever split, her son would be her responsibility and he wouldn’t have to pay child support.

Seems fair, doesn’t it? After cheating on him, which I realize is only an assumption since he has yet to get a DNA test (say what?! I know), I would consider her pretty darn lucky to get a second chance with a man who was also willing to be a father figure to her son.

kangaroo courtI think you know where I’m going with this. They eventually broke up and the woman wants him to pay child support. Not only is Smith angry because he says he isn’t the father and they had an agreement (which, unfortunately, wasn’t in writing and signed by attorneys), but also because his injury left him disabled and $7,000 in arrears.

The biggest problem here is that Smith didn’t get a DNA test as soon as his wife’s son was born. He now has to scramble to get one in a certain amount of time for the court to even consider exonerating him from paying child support. What was he thinking?! Is he really that trusting that he assumed he could have faith in his wife’s word? Maybe he didn’t want to put the child through the trauma of a DNA test?

DNA-testThis is such a sad story. Any man who is kind enough to take care of a child who isn’t his deserves better than this—especially when there are many biological dads who aren’t acting responsibly and feel they are within their right to walk away when the duties of parenthood get in their way.

Do you think this man should be forced to pay child support?

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The Fairness of Paternity Fraud

by Diane Dimond

kangaroo courtThere is a lot of unfairness in the world. The American justice system stands ready to counter that, right?

Not so fast.

When it comes to men and allegations of paternity, women have a decidedly upper hand. Whatever the woman claims in court most often becomes fact. And once a court has ruled on paternity and established child support, it can be next to impossible to change — even if a DNA test excludes the man from any possibility of parenthood.

Across the country, men of all ages, colors and social statuses have been ordered by family courts to pay child support for children that aren’t theirs.

dna test

In one infamous case in New Mexico, a man shelled out years of support for a daughter who never actually existed. His deceitful ex-wife simply told the court there was such a child, and no proof was ever requested.

Some victims of paternity fraud find out the truth while they are still married. In Michigan, Murray Davis discovered that two of his three children were actually fathered by his best friend. But by that time, the kids were nearly teenagers, well past the legal deadline for Davis to contest paternity in that state.

Carnell Smith, of Atlanta, Georgia, discovered that the daughter he’d been raising with his girlfriend wasn’t his. But the courts didn’t want to hear it. Smith was stuck. Like Davis, this falsely identified “father” began to lobby for changes in his state’s law.

Smith started a group called U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud and got Georgia to join Ohio in being one of only two states that allow an unlimited time for a man to challenge paternity as long as the child support case is open.

Many states require a man to file a challenge before the child’s third birthday. The federal law gives a man just 60 days.

chronic-stress“That’s pretzel logic, isn’t it?” Smith asked me. “Don’t tell a man the truth, and then penalize him for not correcting the record fast enough. Some men don’t realize what’s happened,” Smith said, “until they are under water with child support payments and then have no money to pay an attorney to fight for them.”

Also working against the wronged man is the Bradley Amendment, a federal law that prohibits state judges from retroactively modifying child support orders.

None of it sounds fair, does it? But it happens all the time. Judicial reasoning ranges from, “it’s in the best interest of the child,” to, “he didn’t challenge the paternity claim immediately.”

Carnell Alexander of Detroit has been under a court-ordered cloud for nearly 30 years.

graft and corruption doctorIn 1987, his ex-girlfriend applied for welfare to support her new baby. She put Alexander’s name down as the father even though he wasn’t. A process server swore he served Alexander with papers demanding he appear in court, so when Alexander didn’t show up, he was declared a “deadbeat dad.”

Truth is, Alexander was never notified. He was in prison at the time on an unrelated charge stemming from a youthful crime. He didn’t find out about his problem until a traffic stop in 1991.

The mother in question now admits, “Everything is my fault.” She told a Detroit TV station, “He shouldn’t have to pay it at all. I want everything to go away for him so he can get on with his life.”

Despite the mother’s lies to the state, despite a definitive DNA test excluding Alexander as the father, he still owes $30,000 in support for, as he puts it, “A child that I did not father … that I was not involved in raising.” He adds, “It is not fair.”

There’s that phrase again. It is not fair.

baby moneyMurray Davis, who established the National Family Justice Association after his painful experience, says Alexander, “Is only one among tens of thousands in this state and possibly hundreds of thousands or millions around the nation who are victims of this abhorrent crime of paternity fraud.”

Fair seems rare in these cases, but a creative-thinking judge in Virginia found a way around that pesky Bradley Amendment. He ruled that a defrauded man who still legally owed $23,000 in back child support could pay it off at a rate of one dollar a year — for 1, 917 years! You gotta love that.

This kind of fraud happens to young men going off to college, to soldiers going overseas, to men of all ages and occupations. And it ruins lives. Biological children of the falsely identified, new wives, grandparents and others are all profoundly affected by paternity fraud.

Having the best interest of a child in mind is knowing the child’s lineage and medical history. The best interest of society is to have a respected family court that is fair to all.

DNA tests cost about $30 these days. It’s time for automatic court-ordered DNA testing in all child-support cases.

overthrow

Soldier Paid Support for Kid that's Not His

by Roxanna Haynes – WKRN

soldier child support scamWhile a soldier was fighting overseas, he paid about $2,700 in child support for a child that wasn’t his own.

Christopher Childers’ wages were garnished to pay child support while he was deployed in Iraq, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville said in this ruling, the state can’t pay him back, even now that a DNA test has proven he’s not the father.

According to the proceeding, the child’s mother, Alexandria Price, sought assistance from the state and claimed Christopher Childers was the father of her baby.

His child support was set at $126.23 a week.

Childers then filed a motion for DNA testing.

The motion states: “I was deployed in Baghdad, Iraq… I never received a letter ordering me to report for a DNA test. Therefore, I was ordered the father by default.”

Mary Langford, a Family Law attorney, told Nashville’s News 2, “He claimed that he was not served with process, but it had been mailed to his parents home and never accepted. If that was the case, and if the records show that that was the case, it should have stopped right there.”

A juvenile court ordered the state to reimburse Childers, but the state appealed.

The appeals court determined that while the initial judgment was wrong, the juvenile court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to order the state to pay him back.

“The result here is exactly what it has to be under Tennessee law. We can’t force the state to reimburse someone,” Langford said.

Legal experts told Nashville’s News 2 that Childers’ best option now is to have the Tennessee Supreme Court try the case.

They also said Childers should have been issued an attorney because of the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects troops when they are unable to defend themselves in court.

Texas: After 9/1/2012 Paternity Won't Matter

Dennis Fuller

Paternity Case Expert Dennis Fuller Discusses New Texas Statute for DNA Testing

September 1, 2012 is the deadline for men paying child support for children that are not theirs to take advantage of a new Texas statute, reports paternity case expert Dennis A. Fuller.

Dallas, Texas (PRWEB) January 12, 2012

“We hear a lot about “deadbeat dads.” A whole industry has grown up around forcing dads to pay child support. But if a woman lies and says you are the dad when you’re not, the same institutional machinery that grinds up and spits out deadbeat dads can steamroll right over the wrong guy and his entire real family,” says Dennis A. Fuller, who specializes in paternity case law.

2011 was a year of monumental changes in Texas Family Law. One of the most significant changes in a hundred years is the new statute allowing men to request paternity testing (DNA testing) even long after their divorce or paternity suit has been finalized. If the DNA test results show the child is not theirs, they can now force the courts to terminate their child support – even if they continue to see and have a relationship with the child.

“For decades now, Texas courts and judges have forced men who were not the biological father to pay child support; even to the point of denying their real children food and shelter. The misery this has caused some families has been unbearable. Good husbands and fathers have been thrown in jail for not paying child support for children that everyone involved acknowledged were not their children,” continues Fuller.

This year, the Texas legislature finally acknowledged that this was just wrong, and passed a statute to right this injustice, but there is a very narrow window to take advantage of this change. Section 161.005 of the Texas Family Code was amended effective May 12, 2011 to allow men previously adjudicated to be “fathers” to petition the court for DNA testing. Under the amended wording of the statute, if DNA testing shows they are not the biological father of the child, the court must terminate the parent child relationship – and along with it – the child support order.

However, there is a catch. “Texas courts have demonstrated for decades a bias against terminating parent child relationships and child support obligations,” states Fuller.

Repeatedly courts have held that it was not in the best interest of the child to do so, and therefore decline to do so, even when a diligent lawyer has presented a paternity case that gives them the opportunity to do it.

Fuller continues, “The catch is that if you found out you weren’t the father years ago, you only have until September 1, 2012 to file your petition. After September 1, 2012, you will be barred from using the new statute. After September 1, 2012 if the court finds that you knew or decides you should have known you weren’t the father before September 1, 2011, then you will not qualify to terminate your parent child relationship or your child support – ever.”

“For the next eight months, it doesn’t matter when you found out you weren’t the father. For the next eight months, it doesn’t matter what she says (truthfully or other wise), but after September 1, 2012, if she says she told you years ago that you weren’t really the child’s father, the same court that really doesn’t want to terminate your child support, will have a way to deny your termination request forever.”

Fuller encourages anyone that knows someone paying child support and thinks they may not be the child’s real father, to tell them to contact an attorney immediately to pursue a paternity case. “Many courts will continue to have a bias against terminating child support. After September 1, 2012, those courts will have a way to avoid terminating child support that they won’t have for the next eight months.”

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