January 26, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Meanwhile, Carnell Alexander looks like he’s headed to jail (ABC2News, 1/23/15). He’s the Detroit man I’ve written about before who’s been ordered by a judge to pay about $30,000 in back child support for a child everyone agrees isn’t his.
How’d that happen? It was easy. All that needed to be done was remove any requirement that the truth be told and any requirement of due process of law and – presto! – a man goes to jail for a debt that’s not his for a child who isn’t either. And that of course means there’s a man out there somewhere who is the father and who should be paying to support the child. But, in the truly Kafkaesque world of child support court, finding him and demanding his support is not even being considered and apparently never has been.
First, the child’s mother received federal welfare benefits. In order to do so, she was required to name the father of her child, so, without having any idea whether Alexander was the father or not, she named him. She didn’t say, “Well, I’m not sure; it might be Carnell or it might be John.” No, that would have given the child support authority in Michigan the opportunity to test both and ascertain who was actually the father. But instead she went the route of paternity fraud, just naming someone, anyone.
And that was good enough for “paternity establishment” under state and federal law. Oh, I know mothers are supposed to name the correct father, but if they don’t, child support enforcement authorities aren’t going to get upset.
So much for the paternity fraud aspect of the case; now on to the absence of due process of law part. The state wanted Alexander to come to court to submit to genetic testing to see if the child was his. But it didn’t want that very strongly. So when it scheduled a hearing for him, it sent notice of the matter to an address at which Alexander didn’t live, a fact he’s previously proven. On the day the notice was supposedly served on him, he was in fact a resident of a local jail, due to a youthful indiscretion years previously.
But no matter. The person who supposedly served the summons on Alexander lied in an affidavit to the court that Alexander had been duly served. So, knowing nothing of the child or the court date, Alexander of course didn’t show up and was duly adjudicated the father of the child via default judgment. How accurate are default judgments at establishing the correct father?
“It’s not right,” said Murray Davis of the National Family Justice Association.
Davis says there are thousands of men in Carnell Alexander’s shoes because Michigan doesn’t have paternity fraud laws that protect men.
When there is evidence a woman mistakenly or purposefully declares the wrong man as husband, it doesn’t necessarily impact paternity obligations.
Davis did a study a few years back that looked at how many of the men who are declared fathers by default in Wayne County are indeed the father. He says DNA tests found 79% of the time they are not.
“It is so easy to say anyone is the father while applying for assistance,” said Davis.
Now, as I’ve said before, there is absolutely no legal way this man can be sent to prison or tagged with any obligations to this child or to the state. The reason is that he did not receive notice of the charge against him. Notice is one of the two bedrocks of due process rights, the other being a right to be heard by an impartial tribunal. Alexander did not receive notice. Without that, the court lacked jurisdiction over the person of Carnell Alexander. Without jurisdiction over his person, whatever the court sought to do is void and has been since the day it held the hearing. All that means the court order purporting to establish Alexander as the child’s father is void and of no effect. And that in turn means any order purporting to find him in contempt of such an order is also void and of no effect.
Therefore, according to the black letter law of the land for two centuries, Carnell Alexander cannot be sent to jail for contempt of the void court order.
What would happen in a sane world is that the court would issue an order quashing the order that claims to establish Alexander as the child’s father. The district attorney would then dismiss all proceedings against Alexander and ask the mother to try again to figure out who the dad is.
But as of last Friday, none of that was going to be done. No, against all law, morality, common decency, fairness and justice, Carnell Alexander was going to jail. To his credit, he’s not rolling over for the state’s abusive and anti-legal tactics.
Carnell refuses to pay. As a result, the warrant was issued for his arrest. He plans to turn himself in on Friday.
“I will go to jail if I have to because I am tired of the mishandling of the case,” said Carnell.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
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.
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