I’ve said it before a thousand times, so I may as well say it again; placing fathers’ rights in mothers’ hands is a bad idea. Here’s another example (Daily Express, 3/19/11).
Back in the early 90s, James MacLetchie of Scotland had a relationship with his girlfriend Roberta. She became pregnant, but both knew that the child could not be his. That’s because doctors had already told MacLetchie that he was incapable of fathering a child.
Despite that fact, he agreed to have his name placed on the birth certificate and the two married. The article doesn’t explain just why he did those things, but it looks like he was trying to be kind, supportive and loving.
That was fine then, but three years later, he and Roberta split up and, since his name was on the birth certificate, to the Child Support Agency, that meant he was the father. And since he was the father, he owed maintenance, i.e. child support.
In vain did MacLetchie show them proof provided by multiple medical professionals that he was physically incapable of being the father. And of course that inability hadn’t come about since the child’s birth; MacLetchie had proof of that too.
None of that mattered to the CSA. For sixteen years it turned deaf ears to his positive proof of non-paternity. As a practical matter, that meant taking 40% of his wages in child maintenance.
It also meant fighting him in court, a process that ultimately bankrupted him. He lost his house; he lost his job. He had to take out loans just to live; his debts mounted. CSA threatened to impound his car. He felt suicidal, “driven beyond the edge of human endurance,” in MacLetchie’s words.
But really, what was the problem? After all, a simple DNA test would have proven his non-paternity, so why didn’t CSA agree to that and let MacLetchie off the hook for a little boy they well knew could not be his?
The answer is that it wasn’t up to the CSA any more than it was up to MacLetchie. It was up to the mother. Under Scottish law, no DNA test could be done without her consent. And she did not consent.
Why not? The articles don’t say. My guess is that she figured she was better off with MacLetchie’s support than with the real father’s. But whatever the case, it was her decision; his rights, and those of the true father were in her hands and no one else’s.
And because she chose to withhold her consent to DNA testing, MacLetchie went through years of torment and has been left literally penniless.
But of course there’s more. Scottish taxpayers – who support the CSA and its attorneys, the courts and their judges and other personnel – ponied up large sums of money pursuing a man solely because the mother of the child in question elected to deny consent to DNA testing. Their money was wasted.
But that’s still not all. The true father hasn’t spent a single minute with his son. The boy hasn’t spent a single minute with his true father. And that man, whoever he may be, has paid not a farthing to support the child he helped bring into the world. Why? Because one person was empowered by law to decide those things.
After sixteen years, James MacLetchie has finally been granted the right to prove that he is not the child’s father. Of course that was proven long ago, but now he gets to do it again and one supposes that this will be the final time. Now that the boy is an adult,MacLetchie will finally be allowed to prove that he isn’t required to pay maintenance. To say the least, the horse is out of the barn.
What will proving non-paternity now do for MacLetchie? Will it return his money to him? Will it give him back the peace of mind he lost fighting CSA? Will it give him back his house? His job? It will not. It will only do what should have been done years ago.
And none of what is to come will give the true father the opportunity to care for his son, to see his first steps or hear his first words, to read him to sleep, to cuddle him, kiss him, dry his tears. He won’t help with homework, discuss which college is best, try to explain about girls.
No, none of that will happen for one reason and one reason only – because the mother decided that it should be so.
Understandably, MacLetchie has sued CSA for the grief it put him through and the loss of his money and livelihood. Will he win? Strange to say, I doubt it.
After all, what did CSA do that was legally wrong? It seems to have applied the statutes correctly. His name was on the birth certificate; there’s no provision in the law for CSA to consider his inability to father a child, only to do DNA testing; and testing could only be done with the mother’s consent. CSA’s hands were tied.
Should he sue the Roberta? Apart from the fact that she probably has no money to pay a judgment, she too seems to have done no legal wrong. If there’s a requirement in the law that she give her consent when she doesn’t want to, I’m not aware of it and in any case, it was never enforced over 16 years.
From where I stand, it looks like James MacLetchie has no legal recourse. Under Scottish law, everything was done according to Hoyle.
And when everything was done appropriately, and such outrageous consequences resulted, you know there’s something wrong with the law. And that ‘something’ is that fathers’ rights are placed in mothers’ hands.
Is there a question about paternity? Too bad; everything and everyone await the decision of the mother. Is it thumbs up or thumbs down? Does she agree to allow the truth to be known or not?
In James MacLetchie’s case, it was thumbs down, and everyone, from the child to MacLetchie to the father to CSA to judges and lawyers, to Scottish taxpayers, suffered as a result.
Mr MacLetchie, formerly of North Uist, wants a change in the law so DNA testing can be enforced without the mother”s permission…
He’s got my vote.