July 31, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It’s a new day in divorce court, but the narrative hasn’t changed a bit (KDVR, 7/27/16). Once again, the weird machinations of family law and the predilections of the judges who administer it are combining to abet plain wrongdoing by a mother at the expense of two men, one girl and of course decency, justice and common sense.
Coloradan Chris Atkins was married to a woman named Lorri Lonnquist. She gave birth to a daughter in 2001 and placed Atkins’ name on the birth certificate even though she knew he might not be her dad. Two-and-a-half years later they divorced. That gave Lonnquist yet another opportunity to tell the truth about who might be the father of her daughter, but again she declined to do so. Based on her fraud, Atkins began paying child support of $730 per month. Fast forward another eight years and Lonnquist was ready to remarry and wanted to change the girl’s last name. Atkins resisted and Lonnquist informed him that he might not be the child’s father.
That spurred him to have genetic testing done and, sure enough, it revealed that the dad was some other man. Atkins trouped down to court, certain that he would be relieved of his child support obligation. He was wrong. He was so certain of his case that he didn’t hire a lawyer and, not being an attorney himself, didn’t know how to enter the DNA test results into evidence. It appears likely that, since the results were bought and paid for by him and came to him, he couldn’t prove the proper chain of custody. So the judge ruled the DNA evidence inadmissible. Apparently, Atkins also didn’t know to request a court-ordered test.
Whatever the case, Atkins returned to court later with a lawyer only to have the judge tell him he had one and only one chance to submit DNA evidence. He’d failed to do it properly and that was that.
Meanwhile, Lonnquist hasn’t just been happily accepting his money, she’s also keeping him from seeing his daughter. In what looks to be a pattern, the judge wasn’t interested in that either. Atkins reports,
"I went to court and I said ‘I’m not seeing my daughter, but I’m still paying.’ (The judge) said ‘What do you want me to do arrest her?’ And I said ‘Yes sir, something.’ He said ‘It’s out of my hands.’"
No, actually “it” is very much in the judge’s hands. He could have issued a contempt citation in the case if he’d wanted to. But, as we so often see, the visitation rights of non-custodial parents routinely go unenforced. Besides, the judge didn’t have to put Lonnquist in jail. He could have simply forced her to hand over the girl to make up for Atkins’ lost time. A judge who’s so dead set against a father that he refuses to allow clear evidence of non-paternity to be admitted isn’t likely to enforce the same dad’s visitation.
To add insult to injury, the biological father is now known to all. He’s Logan Doolen and, again thanks to Lonnquist’s refusal to admit important facts, didn’t know for 11 years that he had a child. Lonnquist apparently decided Atkins was a better source of income, so she kept both men in the dark about her daughter’s paternity.
And to make matters still worse, Doolen gets to visit his daughter while not paying to support her, but Atkins has to pay, but can’t have contact with her. Family law and family courts truly are amazing things.
Let’s be clear about this case. First, while she was married to Atkins, Lonnquist had an affair with Doolen; that’s lie No. 1. When she gave birth, she gave his name as the father to the state Office of Vital Statistics; that’s lie No. 2. Every remaining day of their marriage, she lied to Atkins about the daughter she called “theirs;” that’s lie No. 3. And of course throughout all that time she lied to Doolen by failing to tell him the child may be his; that’s lie No. 4. When she and Atkins divorced, she had an opportunity and an obligation to tell the truth about what she knew about the identity of her daughter’s father; her lie to the court is lie No. 5. Then she accepted Atkin’s child support for the next eight + years while never letting on that he shouldn’t be paying at all; that’s lie No. 6. And finally, during all those 11 years, she lied to her daughter about who her father was; that of course was lie No. 7.
That, in a nutshell, is the nature of paternity fraud. At least three people – the true dad, the non-dad and the child – are injured and all because Mom wants to control who the “father” is and who pays. There are no laws against paternity fraud anywhere in the United States. (About five states have created a very limited civil cause of action for paternity fraud, but no state requires any mother to tell the truth about who may be the father of her child. Not one.)
The judge in Atkins’ case happily went along with every lie Lonnquist told. And, again to be clear, he didn’t have to. Every court is empowered to accept evidence that is important and probative of a particular legal issue before it. If all else fails, it can simply order DNA testing on its own motion. But this court refused to do so, while it was also refusing to enforce its own order of visitation. Anti-father bias doesn’t get much more blatant than that.
What’s Lonnquist’s take on all this?
When asked if she was taking advantage of the situation, Lonnquist responded, “Maybe so, but that’s also not on me. My kid doesn’t want to see him. She wants nothing to do with him.”
In other words, “Yes, I’m taking advantage of an innocent man and have been since long before my daughter was born. I intend to continue doing so. After all, in addition to everything else, I’ve managed to alienate her from the man I’ve been lying to, and whose money I’ve been accepting, all these years.”
When mothers like Lonnquist win and men like Atkins and Doolen lose, you know there’s something rotten in the courts. And there is.
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