Two Cases: Possible Paternity Fraud; Spousal Support Abuse

April 12th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The Lifestyles of the Rich and Tawdry were on parade recently in two separate cases. 

The first is reported on here (TMZ, 4/8/12).  In it, rapper Juvenile was arrested in Louisiana for failure to pay $160,000 in child support.  But according to him, there are a couple of problems with the arrearage.  First, his son, who’s now 13, stays with him most of the time.  Second, his son may not be his son.

It seems that when the boy was born, Mom told Juvenile he was the father.  And the rap star apparently believed her because he’s been paying to support the child ever since.  He says he was fraudulently induced to do so and now wants a DNA test to prove or disprove his paternity.

Juvenile claims he only recently learned the boy’s mother was having sexual relations with “at least one other man” at the time and that he was “fraudulently induced” into various child support agreements.

He is requesting a paternity test and if it turns out he’s not the father … he wants all judgments against him released AND he wants back every dime he laid out for the boy for the last 13 years.

Well, that won’t happen.  If he’s proven not to be the father, the best he can hope for is to be relieved of future child support obligations.  As to recouping any of the amounts he’s paid out, he can forget it.  Paternity fraud is the only type of fraud for which a victim can’t recover damages.  Despite the fact that they’re easy to prove, courts have so far refused to make a defrauding mother pay a dime to the duped non-dad.  There’s currently a case pending before the Tennessee Supreme Court that may make different law in that state, but Juvenile’s case is in Louisiana, so he’ll get no help there.

Besides, if the boy spends most of the time with him, that means Juvenile has a significant relationship with the lad that doesn’t need to be undone now regardless of what the bio-chemistry says.  What Juvenile ought to do is go for custody and let the boy’s mother start paying him.

In other news found here, singer Melissa Etheridge finds herself in court again (Us Weekly, 4/10/12).  Her ex, Tammy Lynn Michaels is claiming that the child and spousal support Etheridge pays her isn’t enough.  Etheridge pays Michaels $23,000 per month.  How it’s possible for anyone to claim with a straight face that she can’t support herself and two children on $276,000 per year is beyond me.  If I were in her place, I’d be embarrassed to say such a thing.

But Michaels has no such scruples, which I guess is what qualifies her story as one for Lifestyles of the Rich and Tawdry.  She claims she has no savings and so, in the time-honored fashion of divorce courts throughout the country, it’s her ex-partner’s obligation to keep up her lifestyle.

I’ve commented before on the absurdity of spousal support.  For reasons that escape me entirely, the law assumes that, when spouses divorce, the lower earning spouse should undergo no diminution in her standard of living.  Put simply, that doesn’t make any sense.  Here’s a simple concept: when you earn less, your standard of living drops.  It happens for everyone, so why not divorced spouses.

Now, it’s true that, if one person has stayed home to care for the kids and therefore been out of the job market for a time, it’s appropriate to force the other spouse to support her until she gets back up to speed.  We don’t want the kids to go from opulence to poverty overnight, but I’d say a couple of years is more than enough for the lower-earning spouse to start earning again.

But according to the laws of many states, spousal support, even when the marriage was of relatively short duration, can go on for decades.  Only this year, Massachusetts finally repealed its lifetime alimony statute.  Someone should tell state legislators that divorce is supposed to mean change, not a continuation of the status quo.

Needless to say, the type of spousal support laws in force in most states strongly discourage marriage.  What high-earner would want to marry if he knew divorce would only tie him financially to his ex-wife long into the future?  And what low-earner would want to stay married if she knew that she could cash in on divorce?

The entire system of alimony is profoundly anti-marriage and anti-sense.  Alimony should be the exception, not the rule.  It should be paid for short periods of time in cases in which one person needs time to get back into the job market.  Also, if one spouse is very old or disabled and unable to earn, spousal support can be necessary.  But outside those narrow exceptions, adults should fend for themselves.

And that includes members of the Rich and Tawdry.

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