March 25, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
It’s happened again. This time it’s in Houston, but beyond that, the stories of Carnell Alexander in Detroit and Willie Carson look a lot alike. Well, they do except for the ending which, for Carson is considerably happier than is Alexander’s. Here’s the story (My Fox Houston, 3/23/15).
Like Alexander, for years Carson has been fighting a running battle with the state’s child support enforcement authority. That’s because he’s been tagged for supporting a child everyone agrees isn’t his. And, like Alexander, Carson’s had genetic testing performed demonstrating that there is a 0.00% chance that the child is his.
How’d he come to be required to pay for a child who’s not his? Just like in Michigan, the child’s mother named him as the father and the lawyers at the state Attorney General’s Office figured that was good enough for them. Whether they ever notified Carson that he’d been identified as the father isn’t clear, but what is certain is that he has no idea of who this child is. The girl is now 13.
“I’ve never seen the child. I never spoke to the child. I don’t know what the child looks like,” Carson explains.
But none of that prevented the state from garnishing his wages, almost putting Carson on the street at times.
He has paid thousands in child support for the little girl, simply because initially the mother named him as her baby’s father. His paycheck has been garnished for almost 13 years and he’s now behind in payments by $21,000.
Carson has battled this case in court for years and struggles financially because of it. “There were days that I didn’t eat. I went without electricity” he explains.
Thank you Mom and thank you State of Texas! In ways perhaps best understood by Charles Dickens, you dunned a man to the ragged edge of poverty despite knowing that he’s not the girl’s father. You did that because you figured it was easier to go after an innocent man against whom you had a court order than it would have been to locate and get an order against the actual father. You cared not a whit that Carson didn’t father the child or that whoever did was wandering around free of what should be his parental obligations. And of course you cared nothing for the fact that, because Carson’s not the father, he had nothing to do with the child which in turn meant that the girl had no father in her life.
And you did it all for money. The federal government doesn’t pay for uncollected child support. And if the Texas Attorney General’s Office had released Carson from his obligation, it would have had to find the real father, do genetic testing and get the correct order issued. All that would have taken time, during which the state wouldn’t have been collecting child support and Washington wouldn’t have reimbursed it.
Compared with money, things like honesty, justice and a girl’s welfare take a back seat.
But at least in Texas, the AG’s Office can finally admit its wrongful actions and do the right thing, however belatedly. And that’s what it’s done in Willie Carson’s case. Interestingly, it seems the thing that turned the tide in his favor wasn’t his DNA evidence, but a letter from the girl’s mother.
The girl’s mom has now sent a letter to the court saying he isn’t her daughter’s dad and shouldn’t have to pay. Recently Carson received a letter stating his 401K funds are no longer frozen and he no longer has to pay child support.
Presumably that means the actual father has been located and will now begin supporting the child he helped bring into the world. Will he try to form a relationship with her? Will she be interested in acquiring a father so late in life? Who knows, but at least now those things are possible.
“I learned a lot of valuable lessons in all of this” smiles Carson. “I never gave up. There is light at the end of the tunnel”.
Good for him. It’s nice to read a story that comes out OK in the end. But the end of that tunnel? It’s still a long, long way off.
According to the Attorney General even after dismissing a mistaken dad’s duty to pay child support he is "still responsible for arrears", responsible for any back money owed.
That’s $21,000 that Carson still has to pay to the mother who misidentified him as the father of her daughter. That’s the result of the Bradley Amendment that prohibits any retroactive modification of child support orders. So, under that amendment, a child support order, once it takes effect, is operative until it’s modified or terminated. If it’s wrong, it doesn’t matter. If it’s based on fraud, too bad for the non-custodial parent.
And of course, the mother, who’s received all that money from Carson, and who failed to tell the Attorney General’s Office the truth about the paternity of her daughter, receives no punishment for doing so. Indeed, the concept is so foreign to child support regulations that it’s not even mentioned in articles on the subject of falsely or misidentified “fathers.” But that’s not because the phenomenon is rare.
This happens so often the issue is among the Texas Attorney General’s Office frequently asked questions.
The child support enforcement system places the onus on men who’ve been identified as fathers to disprove the matter. It would be easier, quicker and cheaper to require mothers to tell the truth about who fathered their children. After all, a woman knows with whom she’s had sex, but the man only knows that he did. If there are other candidates to be her child’s father, only she knows who they are. Therefore, the law should require mothers to identify all possible fathers from the outset. Each can then be tested and the correct man established as the dad. If we did that one simple thing, we’d save ourselves a lot of money and time. And men like Willie Carson wouldn’t find themselves going without meals because they’re paying to support children who aren’t theirs.
Finally, the Bradley amendment should itself be amended to permit retroactive modification of child support orders in which the payer was mis — or falsely identified.
After all, Willie Carson should never have had to pay a dime in child support. It’s a crime that he still has to pay $21,000 because the girl’s mother couldn’t be bothered to say “The father is Willie Carson, or maybe Fred Smith.”
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