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February 04, 2004

Surprise! You're a deadbeat dad.

A chilling account of how federal "deadbeat dad" laws are motivating the States to point the finger at innocent men, under the incentive of generating billions of dollars in revenue from the scheme.

Tony Pierce, a California man, was issued a summons claiming he was the father of an 8-year-old girl whose mother he'd never met. A long game of phone-tag with the county court failed to resolve the issue:

"I said, ‘What do I need to do? I’m not the father,’" he remembers. "And they were like, ‘OK, well this is what you do: You just call in every day, and then we’ll understand that you’re not it, because if you’re it, you’re not gonna call us every day.’"

What he didn't know was that a federally-mandated 30-day time bomb was ticking, and that if the issue wasn't resolved by then he'd de facto be the father by default. Not even a DNA test can fix this problem once it happens. And the State doesn't care, because they're now able to skim his child payments for their own coffers. From the article: In the words of former California legislator Rod Wright, "It ain’t your kid, you can prove it ain’t your kid, and they say, ‘So what?’"

Once you're marked as a deadbeat dad, in addition to the money garnished from your wages, there are other possible consequences: your credit rating may be trashed, you might not be able to renew a driver's license, and you may be denied a passport. (According to the article, an average of 60 American men discover this each day.) A name, race, vague location, and a broad age range provided by the mother is sufficient to launch a process to search for any man matching that description and tag him as the father.

Most laughable is the claim that the intent of the deadbeat dad laws "was to encourage more responsible sexual behavior by single women". Seems like in practice that what it really it means is that a single woman can screw around and then point the finger at any man -- with the complicity of the States -- to get the paternity money.

File that one under "unintended consequences".

Posted by david at February 4, 2004 10:52 AM | TrackBack
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Another shocking example: A man, seduced at age 14 by an older woman fifteen years ago must now pay child support [link]. The woman cannot be charged with statutory rape because the statute of limitations has passed, but apparently there is no statute of limitations on paternity. Why should genetic commonality be the sole determinant of who pays support anyway? It would seem to me that the man the rapist divorced, who actually took responsibility for raising the child, is more responsible for paternity than this kid who just contributed one spermatazoon to the child's upbringing.

Posted by: david on February 25, 2004 10:45 AM
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