September 4, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Once again a man is being required to pay child support for a child he fathered when he was a minor. But there’s more to this story than just the outrage of a rapist receiving child support from her victim (USA Today, 9/1/14). The case of Arizonan Nick Olivas reveals several of the astonishing anti-father aspects of family law and court practices that fit together to form one of the most senseless and dysfunctional policies anywhere.
Beginning with the facts of the case, Olivas had sex with a 20-year-old woman when he was 14. Under Arizona law, that means she was and is guilty of rape because at the time he was conclusively deemed incapable of consent due to his age. The two didn’t see each other after that, so Olivas never knew she had become pregnant with his child. Fast forward six years and out of the blue he received a letter from the State of Arizona informing him that he has a daughter and that he owed six years of back child support plus interest plus medical bills.
The law, as it always does, considers a man to be responsible financially for any child he fathers, regardless of how that comes about. Did she hold a gun to his head and demand sex? It doesn’t matter, the child is his and he owes. Did she pilfer his semen from a condom he used? That’s OK too. Never mind that it was his intention to avoid fathering a child. Never mind that she perpetrated a fraud on him. He owes her. Or, as in Olivas’ case, did she rape a child? That too is fine with the State of Arizona and, as far as I know, all other states. Rape, fraud, deception – they’re all just fine as long as it’s a woman doing it to a man and she manages to bring a child into the world in the process. His consent? Irrelevant. His knowledge? Unimportant. His intent? Worthless.
Needless to say, if the sexes were reversed, we’d be screaming bloody murder. Imagine an adult male who rapes an underage girl. In the first place, he’d never get custody because he’d be in prison, so the question of child support would never come up. But if, by some weird twist of fate, he did, the news media would be on fire with indignation were some judge to order her to pay support.
Indeed, one of the most recent trends in the law is to remove parental rights from rapists altogether. Of course those who are backing that type of legislative enactment haven’t yet figured out how to wire around the very situation Olivas finds himself in. After all, if one of those laws were in effect in Arizona, it would be Olivas with sole custody of the child because the mother raped him. But, as it is, the state has no problem not only leaving her parental rights in place, but dunning him for support as well.
Which brings us to point number two. The State of Arizona has not, and apparently hasn’t even considered, punishing her for her crime. Yes, statutory rape is a felony and yes, she’s as much as admitted committing the act, so where’s the District Attorney? AWOL, that’s where. Stranger still, the linked-to article has the audacity to suggest that it was Olivas’ fault for her getting off scot free.
Olivas didn’t press charges and says he didn’t realize at the time that it was even something to consider.
Yes, that’s the thing about 14-year-olds, they tend to be less knowledgeable about the law than are, say District Attorneys. Put simply, it’s not up to a child to do the duty of a public official for him/her. Of course the DA may not have known about the rape, but he/she does now, so why not prosecute? It turns out it matters.
In Arizona, the Department of Economic Security oversees child–support enforcement. Its written policy is not to exempt situations like Olivas’ from child-support responsibilities, unless the parent seeking child support has been found guilty of sexual assault with a minor or sexual assault.
So if the DA charges the woman and she pleads or is found guilty, Olivas doesn’t have to support the child he never even heard of until two years ago. But the DA apparently has decided to ignore the commission of a felony and, into the bargain, weigh a young man down with child support.
And speaking of the woman, care to guess who she is? Well, your guess is as good as mine since the press has apparently decided that, in an even stranger twist, she’s somehow the victim and therefore can’t be named. The press has a practice of not naming rape victims but seem to be making an exception in this case. Here, the rape shield laws are being applied to protect the rapist while the victim’s identity is bandied about freely. Make sense?
Actually, nothing seems to make sense in this case, including the state’s justification for tagging a rape victim for child support. All states make the point that child support is for the child, not the rapist, and they might have a point of that were true, but of course it’s not. Don’t believe me? Let a father try to pay the money to the child and see how the state responds. Indeed, essentially every court order of child support requires the money to be paid through the state office that enforces child support laws. The money is then turned over to the custodial parent.
It’s understandable that support shouldn’t be paid to the child when he/she is too young to know what to do with it, but that doesn’t change when the child becomes a teenager and presumably has some understanding of finances. Of course the teenager is still a child and may be considered too young still to deal with support. But that just piles irony on irony. Let’s see, if Nick Olivas had been the object of a child support order at age 14 when he was having sex with the unnamed woman, the state would consider him incompetent to receive the child support meant for him, but fully capable of paying child support for the child he fathered. I repeat, make sense?
Did I mention that the interest rate on his back child support obligation – the one that accrued while he didn’t even know he had a daughter – is a whopping 10% per annum? Yes, Arizona’s charging Olivas a rate that, if a hedge fund manager claimed to make such a return we’d be suspicious that he was violating securities laws, is charged to a man who has little ability to pay it. Worse, the child support and the interest are being charged to him for a time in which it was literally impossible for him to pay it. It was impossible because he had no knowledge that he had a child to support. But that defense (of impossibility) that’s available to every person in every case, whether criminal or contractual, is apparently not available to Olivas.
Then there’s the fact that the mother of Olivas’ daughter, like every other woman in the country, is under no legal obligation to inform the father that he has a child. So, we often see men informed years after the fact that they have a child. That means we permit a child to go fatherless for as long as the mother so desires and of course, during that time, the father has no ability to exercise whatever parental rights he may have. That damages the child in all the ways we know fatherless children suffer and it deprives the child of the father’s monetary support that we pretend to be so important to it.
In short, the state says that, wrong as it seems, it’s appropriate to force a rape victim to support his child, because after all, it’s all about the child’s welfare, right? But that same state wouldn’t dream of requiring a mother to tell the father he has a child and therefore give the child that very monetary support, plus the love, protection and guidance a child gets from its father.
And, just in case anyone missed the anti-father message, Olivas now says he’d really like to be a part of his daughter’s life, now that the state and the mother have decided to let him know she exists. But of course he’s having a lot of difficulty with that. Yes, he’s been trying for two years, but still hasn’t managed to convince anyone that the child needs him as anything beyond the folding money in his wallet. A mother who’s a felon and a rapist? The child needs her. A mother who can’t stay off of welfare? The child needs her. A mother who can’t be bothered to let the dad know about his child? Yes, the child needs her mother, apparently regardless of how irresponsible and malicious she is. But a dad? Not so much.
As I said, this case has a lot to teach us about the many perversities and hypocrisies of our system of child custody and support. But if all that seems too complicated to a person unversed in such things, there’s a simple, easy-to-understand summary – mothers have rights, fathers have obligations. Remember that, and little about family court will surprise you, even rape victims being ordered to pay support to their rapists.
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Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.
#Statutoryrape, #childsupport, #paternityfraud, #fathers’rights