Unemployed Dad Owes Thousands in Support for Child He Didn’t Know About

This case truly takes me back in time (Blackpool Gazette, 5/16/11).  My earliest work in fathers’ rights issues involved what I called at the time, ‘the unknowing father,’ i.e. men, knowledge of whose paternity was kept from them by the mother.  Now I call it Type B paternity fraud.  Type A is when the mother tells the wrong man he’s the dad; Type B is when she conceals the child from the father.

For me, that issue was truly the ‘door in the low wall’ that, when opened revealed a whole world I never knew existed.

As but one example, I got to know a man in Houston who received a telephone call late one night.  It woke him and his new wife out of a sound sleep.  The call came from a woman he’d known at work some 14 years previously.  They’d had a brief affair and never really seen each other again.  Her call to him that night was to let him know that her second child was his, not her husband’s.  His son was almost 14.

He also had tens of thousands of dollars in child support to pay.  The new business he was trying to start crumbled under the weight of the debt.  His new marriage survived, but barely.

At the time, what most impressed me, aside from the outrageous behavior of his one-time paramour in refusing to tell him she had a child who could be his, was the dramatic imbalance between his rights and his obligations.  For 14 years he’d had no parental rights to his child, no contact with his own flesh and blood, because the child’s mother had decided that it should be so.  But despite that entire lack of rights, his obligation to support the child was there all along.

That was 13 years ago, but the same thing -with a twist – is still going on, as the linked-to article well shows.  Back in 1994, Adrian Haddon of Blackpool, England, was serving in the Royal Engineers in Canada.  There he met a woman with whom he had a brief affair.  His unit was stationed in the area for only three months, but the next year, he was back and happened to run into the woman who had a youngster with her.

She neglected to mention that the child was Haddon’s.

Twelve years later, Haddon was arrested in Blackpool because Canadian authorities had decided he owed £34,402 in back child support.  Had there been a hearing?  One assumes so, but, much like the child itself, no one had let Haddon know about it.  So he’d had no opportunity to learn if the child was really his or to show proof of his earnings.

That of course raises an issue; since child support is usually calculated at least in part on the non-custodial parent’s earnings, how did the Canadian court arrive at a figure?

That in turn becomes an issue because Haddon is in fact unemployed.  So (a) how did the Canadian court come up with a figure and (b) how is Haddon going to pay?

Those are questions that run-of-the-mill folks like me ask because they’re obvious.  But as we’ve learned to predict, family courts often don’t pay attention to the obvious, and so it is here.  And that is where the twist comes in.

Blackpool Magistrates Court heard the debt had been registered in the UK by the Alberta authorities.

The Canadians used a reciprocal agreement between the two nations to catch up with Mr Haddon and asked Lancashire Police to arrest him.

Trevor Colebourne, defending Haddon, said: “This is an unusual case.

“My client was somewhat shocked to be arrested here for matters in Canada.

“He has not been working and would like to contest the amount and although he can be arrested in this country he cannot apply to vary the order made in Canada in this country.’

Aye, there’s the rub.  Once again, Haddon has debt obligations that England is happy to enforce against him, but he has no right to contest the amount of the debt.  After all, the Canadian court’s ruling was made in the complete absence of any evidence of Haddon’s earnings.  He can be jailed for failing to pay – and has been – but he has no way to show that the amount is incorrect, if it is.

I suppose we have to stand in awe of the demonic genius of child support systems around the English-speaking world.  The system of responsibilities without rights, once thought to be impossible, is now thoroughly established and no one so much as blinks.

Few would regard what’s happened to Adrian Haddon as fair, but there are those who defend the child support system by saying that it’s all justified by the need of children for financial support.  According to that logic, whatever the difficulties of the parents, they have an obligation to provide support for their children.

But that argument of course has little relevancy to Adrian Haddon’s case for the simple reason that the child needed his support for all the 13 years of its life before Haddon knew a thing about it.  It’s one of the many nonsensical things about child support; in Type B paternity fraud cases like this one, the child receives no support at all from the father for 13 years and then all of a sudden needs £34,402.

For all that time, the child had no father and the father no knowledge of or contact with the child.  And of course it’s all done in “the best interests of the child.”

In a sane world, no father would either lose rights or gain responsibilities until he knows about his child.  Both would come into being only when he learned about the existence of his child and the fact of his paternity.  To do it any other way is to reward paternity fraud, which of course we do in all of the legal jurisdictions I know about.

To my knowledge, no mother has ever been punished in any way for withholding knowledge of a child from a father or for telling a man he was the father when he wasn’t.  As long as we impose no obligation on mothers to tell the truth about paternity, men like Adrian Haddon will be arrested out of the blue and children like his will go to sleep at night fatherless.

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