Complete details of the Soto case Text of Fathers and Families’ Letter Steve Eldred Director, Orange County Department of Child Support Services 1055 North Main Street Santa Ana, CA 92702-2099 Telephone: (866) 901-3212 Dear Mr. Eldred: We write to protest the Orange County Department of Child Support Services’ conduct in the Pedro Soto paternity fraud case. In that case, “duped dad” Pedro Soto has already paid over $75,000 after-tax dollars in child support for a child DNA tests have established is not his, and who has been living with both of his biological parents for many years.
Soto got into this painful situation simply because he did the right thing–in 1998, when Maricela Guerrero told Soto that he was the biological father of her infant son Aaron, Soto signed a paternity declaration and began paying child support. His reward for stepping up and doing what he thought was right has been 13 years of deception, pain, and financial exploitation, all of which have harmed him, his wife, and his children. Since the now 13-year-old child is living with and being supported by his biological father, Francisco Serrano, Soto’s payments can hardly be considered “child support”–they are simply theft by Maricela Guerrero. While Soto will always welcome Aaron in his home, he rightly does not wish to continue to perpetuate the falsehood that he is Aaron”s biological father. When Soto filed a motion to set aside the false paternity judgment in his case earlier this year, the OCDCSS should have sympathized with this honorable man and done what it could to right the injustice he suffered. Instead, incredibly, OCDCSS fought the motion, seeking to keep Soto on the hook for five more years of child support payments for a child DNA tests have conclusively proven is not Soto’s, but is instead Serrano’s. OCDCSS’ actions will not help Aaron, and will harm Soto and his family. Yet you have fought Soto, and you are likely fighting many other victims like him. From these actions one might infer that your agency seeks only to collect as much child support as possible, regardless of ethical considerations. Los Angeles family law attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq., who represented Soto, cited County of Los Angeles v. Navarro (2004) in urging the Court to exercise its equitable powers to right this injustice in a paternity case. In Navarro, just as the OCDCSS sought to perpetuate an injustice in Soto, the Los Angeles County DCSS sought to keep Manuel Navarro on the hook for 13 more years of child support. This for two boys of whom Navarro had been erroneously “defaulted into fatherhood,” and who he did not know. The Navarro court’s harsh but accurate words apply as much to your agency’s conduct in Soto as it did to LADCSSS’ conduct in Navarro:
A profound mistake occurred here when appellant was charged with being the boys” father…Instead of remedying its mistake, the County retreats behind the procedural redoubt offered by the passage of time since it took appellant”s default.
It is this State”s policy that when a mistake occurs in a child support action the County must correct it, not exploit it…Thousands of individuals each year are mistakenly identified as being liable for child support actions. As a result of that action, the ability to earn a living is severely impaired, assets are seized, and family relationships are often destroyed. It is the moral, legal, and ethical obligation of all enforcement agencies to take prompt action to recognize those cases…and correct any injustice to that person.
Despite the Legislature”s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so. We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result. We say no to the County, and we reverse. (Emphasis added)
Fathers and Families is continuing to work in the California legislature to pass bills that will eliminate the kinds of injustices suffered by Soto, Navarro, and tens of thousands of other men. These include two current bills, SB 375 & SB 377. As we explained in our column Bill would give ‘duped dads’ some fairness under the law (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11), current law is “anachronistic and destructive, and has led to horrendous injustices. In some cases, a divorced man must pay child support for the child of his ex-wife and her paramour – and pay it into the household where the paramour and the ex-wife, the two biological parents, now live…” This is the case in Soto. Fathers and Families sees the victims of child support enforcement policies such as yours every day. These besieged men and their families contact us, shellshocked by the injustices perpetrated against them, made desperate by the privations imposed upon them. On TV and radio, in newspapers and via the Internet, Fathers and Families and others have publicized many of these injustices, and the public is appalled. The era when child support enforcement agencies can run roughshod over the lives of innocent, honorable people is coming to an end. Sincerely, Glenn Sacks, MA National Executive Director, Fathers and Families Michael Robinson Legislative Representative, Fathers and Families