ATM Daddy

|

Here's a run-of-the-mill paternity horror story, told in six economical paragraphs:

[Geoffrey] Fisher had a brief relationship with a woman seven years ago and believed her when she got pregnant and told him he was the father. He began paying child support but fell behind over time.

In the summer of 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services took him to court because of delinquent payments. The court ordered him to pay up, and the state had his license suspended under the "deadbeat dad" law.

That fall the girl, then 3, was placed in foster care. When Fisher pushed for custody, the state ordered a paternity test, which proved he wasn't the father.

At that point, one branch of the human services department told him he could no longer see the girl because he wasn't the father, while another said he owed $10,000 and couldn't have a driver's license because he was the father.

Fisher thought the matter resolved when a judge ruled he no longer had to pay child support in January 2002.

But earlier this month, the Maine attorney general's office wrote a letter to Howaniec saying Fisher owed support payments for the time from the child's birth until she reached 3 years old, when tests proved Fisher was not the father.

NEXT: New Maps of Hell

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Makes your head explode.

    Works the other way as well. Ca was garnishing the wages of a fleabag friend for non-support. The company he worked for was bought and as a result the garnishment stopped (because the new company was technically a new employer with different id #’s). Despite mandatory payroll reports going to the state every quarter the DA was never able to match the social security number to a garnishment order and start taking the money again. For years.

  2. I am so glad I got “fixed” when I was 26.
    I didn’t want any ugly children.
    No need to thank me.

  3. Yeah, well if he didn’t want to be responsible for raising a child then he shouldn’t have…

    …Yeah, well if he hadn’t spent so much money and time with the child to begin with, then…

    Um…

    …Well the mother belongs in jail, because, after all, she…

    This is all the fault of the Department of Health and Human Services, isn’t it? …And it is a run-of-the-mill story, isn’t it?

  4. Hey, any way we can pilfer your money, we will!

    It’s not OUR fault that the parties can’t get their bedroom habits in order! You keep popping those tax exemptions out and we’ll find some way to make someone pay for them!

  5. Everyone complains about lawyers, but it’s really all those *%&^$$%#^% MSWs who are ruining this country.

    And they’re doing it for 35K a year too!

  6. He should obviously have gotten a paternity test before submitting to government mandated child support.

    Volunteering time and money is one thing, but when she asks to register your contributions with the State, that’s quite another.

  7. There are a lot of babies out there, and I have not yet taken a paternity test to confirm that I didn’t father any of them.

    Am I obligated for child support until we verify that I’m not the father?

  8. An optics professional like you, thoreau? I bet there are girls going through your garbage for used condoms!

  9. “He should obviously have gotten a paternity test before submitting to government mandated child support.”

    Bubba, often these are default judgments because the putative father didn’t even know he had been sued. Some states, especially California, play fast and loose with service of process in paternity cases.

  10. This episode got me to wondering. How often do unmarried pregnant women “daddy shop”? That is, how many realize the real father is such a deadbeat that it’s pointless to name him as a father, so they find and seduce someone with at least some level of income so they can come back a few weeks later with the “news” that he is about to be a father?

    It looks like our current laws would encourage such conduct. Whereas a required paternity test in such incidents would make such a strategy useless.

  11. “Bailiff, whack his pee pee” would seem to be a more appropriate punishment in these cases.

  12. Happy Jack —

    Ooh, ooh, I know! Cheech and Chong.

  13. Could be worse. In Germany, putative fathers aren’t allowed to have a paternity test without the mother’s consent.

    But these policies are insane.

  14. He never once challenged his paternity. He was actually trying to PROVE it when he took the DNA test.

    He’s a moron and deserves his punishment.

  15. thoreau, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that….my oldest is going to college next year and I–we– have to pay for it somehow!

  16. Serafina,

    I thought maybe you’d hit us with the one about how it’s always a surprise how little forethought most guys put into protection. …That comment stuck with me; it made me think.

    …I don’t think most women understand how it goes, I mean, even if you’ve been with the same one for years, when you get some sugar, it’s a surprise about half of the time.

    ?and if you carry something around in your wallet all the time, just in case, you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of speculation. Keep it in the night stand and you’re being presumptuous.

    It’s complicated.

  17. Heh. I’d hate to be predictable and repeat myself too often, Ken.

    To be honest, though, I’m offended if a guy doesn’t have a condom. I like responsible men. Having a condom is a sign of respect both for the person he’s with and for himself.

  18. I’m all for people taking responsibility for their actions, but that needs to include everybody.

    Largely because of both improved medicine and improved contraception in the last two centuries, nearly all sex today is for pleasure, not reproduction. Both the law and religion must come to grips with this fact. Religions that don’t will be discarded as obsolete; laws that don’t are tyranny.

    By updating the law, I mean a lot more than just legalizing all forms of sex by consenting adults, though that is certainly a moral imperative and needs to be done yesterday. The law also needs to be changed to put authority and responsibility in the same hands in the many cases where they currently aren’t.

    Under present law, when an unintended pregnancy occurs, the woman has sole authority to decide the outcome; she can have the child and keep it, have it and give it up for adoption, abort, or (in many states) even legally abandon it. She doesn’t even have to tell the man that it happened. But she is free to choose the most expensive outcome — having the child and keeping it — and the law compels the man to pay for the result of that choice. This is horribly unfair. The same rule ought to apply as in awarding damages after an accident of any other kind — if you don’t take all reasonable steps to minimize the cost of the accident, you give up the right to collect. (As it stands, the law forecloses this argument by saying that support is the child’s right, not the mother’s, but that is a morally bankrupt cop-out.)

    Several related laws amplify the tyranny here.

    1) The woman can falsely promise not to keep the child if this happens, and renege and still collect. She can entrap the man deliberately by falsely telling him she’s using birth control, and still collect. She can even deliberately defeat such measures as condom use, withdrawal, or sex practices not involving the vagina (by collecting and inserting the semen afterward) and still collect.

    2) Child support awards have nothing to do with even a guess about the cost of raising a child. Instead, they are based on a court’s (often ridiculous) estimate of the man’s potential earnings. And no attempt at all is made to ensure that the money actually gets spent on the child. This, combined with 1), has created a huge opportunity for dishonest women to live at a man’s expense without even having to live with him.

    3) Courts routinely use contempt orders to effectively recreate the debtor’s prison for men who can’t pay. In addition, federal law frequently creates that very inability by forcing states to revoke the drivers’ licenses and occupational licenses of men who get behind in their payments. In effect the 13th Amendment has been worse-than-repealed for men who’ve been forced into fatherhood: not only are they required to work, the law makes them unable and then punishes them for not doing it anyway.

    Honest women who want children, and who quite sensibly want to insist that the father commit himself to taking responsibility for them, have always had a perfectly good mechanism for formalizing exactly that agreement; it’s called marriage, and all they have to do is insist on it before having sex (or at least, vaginal penetration).

    Just as the law (the Statute of Frauds) quite sensibly insists that people who want a contract (for more than $100) enforced put it in writing, the law should insist, as it did until about 1930, that a woman who wants to collect child support begin by getting the man’s signature on a marriage license. In the absence of marriage, the law ought to expect her to either refrain from sex or to pay for the result of her after-pregnancy choice herself. Until this change is made, more and more women will enslave men by trickery.

  19. “I thought maybe you’d hit us with the one about how it’s always a surprise how little forethought most guys put into protection. …That comment stuck with me; it made me think.”

    I wrote about this Ken — I call it being “sex-dumbed.” I mention Matt Welch’s amazing Reason mag story on paternity fraud in the column. Here’s the link, or go to advicegoddess.com and click on the guy on the front page with the microphone (not sure if HTML link will take here).

  20. Ha! You made me laugh out loud, John!

    I think that the law ought to expect men to either refrain from sex until they are married or pay the result of their gamble in not to protect themselves from unwanted fatherhood. Happily, they have a couple of options for doing so–condoms and vasectomy, the latter being highly effective (and with modern technology, it doesn’t even have to preclude future fatherhood).

    For the most part, men are enslaved by thinking with their dicks rather than using their brains. I have no problems with changing child support laws and policies to make them more equitable and get rid of the mind-numbingly illogical contortions of policies described in these news stories. But to pretend that men are so helpless and naive when it comes to taking responsibility for reproduction when they damn well know the facts of biology is just silly.

    Men simply have to make the decision about whether or not to risk having a child much sooner than women do–because they’re not the ones whose bodies carry the fetus, they don’t have the abortion fallback. They have to trust that someone else will listen to their input in making that decision in the event of birth control failure. And men as well as women know the all-too-human tendency of people to change their mind when it comes to matters of passion. Women can be “sex-dumbed” as much as men can.

    I have nothing but contempt for the kind of woman who’d pull some crazy stunt to trick a man into fatherhood. But I think they are the exception rather than the rule and that more unintended pregnancies are the result of human failure rather than maliciousness. Maybe I’m just a Pollyanna…

  21. “…nearly all sex today is for pleasure, not reproduction. Both the law and religion must come to grips with this fact. Religions that don’t will be discarded as obsolete; laws that don’t are tyranny.”-John David Galt

    Yeah, right! Now if we can only get that pesky biology to understand this important realization!

    Seriously, though, John your conclusion logically does not agree with your opening. Until both men and women treat sex as more than mere recreation there is no good solution to these kinds of dilemmas. Some men who are not responsible for the children produced by casual sex will suffer under false paternity claims, while children will be materially shortchanged by men too irresponsible to take care of the children they have produced. Religions and laws that preach sex as recreation will only worsen the problems.

  22. I think it’s more complicated than that Kim and Serafina.

    The one that’ll lose all inspiration, look for children to complete her life, look to you as her primary source of happiness, ride you for failing to make her happy, alienate your friends and family, humiliate you in front of your children, blame you for all of her failures and hold you responsible for promises you never made–she isn’t just someone you see on trashy talk shows. …That’s like half of my well bred friends’ sisters.

    …and realize that a lot of guys are prone to be taken advantage of–deep in their hearts, they genuinely want to be some girl’s hero!

    How do you tell which people will make good mothers (or fathers) and good wives (or husbands)? Do you look for a similar background? Intelligence? Aspirations? Education? Do you get the opinions of other people you trust? Do you look for sound moral charachter? Do you put in years of honest communication before taking the plunge? …Cause that describes how I made the worst mistake of my life–thank God I didn’t have any children!

    The point is there’s no amount of reasoned analysis that can protect you from one of the wolves out there–male or female. From a strictly rational viewpoint, I’m not sure anyone should ever have children.

    …I’m not saying that rational people don’t want to procreate–when they look at the big picture, most of them do–but the marginal analysis hardly ever makes sense. And in the end, you have to count on all sorts of intangibles–you’re just takin’ a big chance anyway. In the end, you’re takin’ the same chance as the kids on lover’s lane.

  23. I look forward to the day when nobody can procreate without proof of the ability to raise the child. What, this is not libertarian? Bullshit! Were talking about creating human life. People have been creating people willy nilly forever, but so what? People have been raping and killing as well. Just because it’s always been one way doesn’t mean that it’s not primitive. Creating a human being is serious business, and if one is not financially and emotionally prepared to care for a child, they shouldn’t have the right to create the child. Currently, we don’t possess the technology to effectively prevent all unwanted pregnancies without implementing seriously draconian laws, but someday we will. If you can’t drive without a license, you shouldn’t be able to create a person just because it’s your animalistic desire to do so. The rights of the child-to-be should trump the selfish desires of the parents-to-be.

  24. On paper at least and out of German hands, eugenics still sound promising.

  25. quite simply, condom + spermicide = all the insurance a guy can get before going to snip snip local anesthesia land.

    guys don’t think this shit through, and maybe the rest of the world still operates on that “don’t talk about it or you won’t get lucky” bit but frankly the more intelligent will refrain from exchanging fluids until safety factors – beyond procreation isues – are established by open and honest communication. and laboratory confirmation.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.