Welfare

Because it's in the Child's Best Interest That Some Mostly Random Homeless Dude Stays in Jail

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Here's something that happens way too regularly while being noticed way too infrequently: "Court knew man jailed for a year for non-support was not child's father."

The details, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Frank Hatley has languished in a South Georgia jail for more than a year.

The reason? He failed to reimburse the state for all the public assistance his "son" received over the past two decades.

Mr. H failed to turn in his paperwork

The problem? Hatley is not the biological father—and a special assistant state attorney general and a judge knew it but jailed Hatley anyway. […]

Even after learning he was not the father, Hatley paid thousands of dollars the state said he owed for support. After losing his job and becoming homeless, he still made payments out of his unemployment benefits.

Hatley's lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said two independent DNA tests—one nine years ago and one just a few days ago—prove he is not the biological father.

"This is a case of excessive zeal to recover money trumping common sense," she said. "What possible legitimate reason can the state have to pursue Mr. Hatley for child support when he does not have any children?"

In a nutshell, Hatley had a relationship with a woman in the 1980s (they never married), she became pregnant, told him the child was his, then they broke up soon after the birth. When the mother applied for welfare in 1989, the state went after Hatley to reimburse the cost and pay regular child support going forward. He complied, in part because he thought he was the father. In 2000, a DNA sample proved that he wasn't, and the next year Hatley won a court order relieving him of future child support obligations. But the state said he still owed $16,000+ in back support. He paid almost $6,000 of that back, but then got fired, became homeless, fell behind in his payments, and got jailed for contempt. The state's Office of Child Support Services says, with sadness more than anger, that Hatley is "dealing with a valid court order," and that he has failed to make an official request to be relieved of his remaining obligations.

Not mentioned in the article: The guy is ineligible to obtain a U.S. passport. Also, the same predicament can face men who have never even met the mother of the child in question. For more on that nightmare, see my 2004 Reason story, "Injustice by Default."

Link via Amy Alkon.

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  1. I wonder if the liberals who objected to Bush locking up people w/ trial as “terrorists” will have an issue with locking this guy up when the govt knew he was innocent.

    Is that even a question?

  2. “Here’s something that happens way too regularly while being noticed way too infrequently:”

    Shouldn’t that be “far” to regularly? Or perhaps Matt is relying on The Valley Girl Stylebook.

  3. Where’s Maury when you need him? Sounds like the mother needs to reimburse the state and if not, lock her ass up! Then this guy should sue her for the trouble she caused.

    Too bad they can’t make abortion retroactive! (and I mean the mother!)

  4. This isn’t all that uncommon here in Georgia either. I used to work at the local jail as a kitchen supervisor. I had one inmate who worked for me that is in for non-payment of child support, though in this case the kid was indeed his. He had been in jail for almost a year, and wasn’t going to be released until he paid all the back child support.

    My response? How the hell is he supposed to pay it when he’s locked up and can’t work to earn money to pay?

    There’s more than a couple in for kids that aren’t theirs as well.

  5. The state’s Office of Child Support Services says, with sadness more than anger, that Hatley is “dealing with a valid court order,” and that he has failed to make an official request to be relieved of his remaining obligations.

    See! They’re human; they empathize with the poor fellow, but they’re helpless to do anything about it.

    Lawz is lawz.

  6. This is sickening. But I do have to wonder why he didn’t make a request for relief from past obligations when he won a court order for relief from future obligations.

    ANd at least he was able to free himself from future obligations…if I remmebre correctly in Cali unless you contest being the fater witin a year or two they don’t give a fuck if you are the father or not because it’s in the best interest of the child that someone (you) continue to support the child.

    Sickening all around

  7. The default judgment issue does seem to be the most atrocious aspect of child support as it lacks even minimal due process protections. It basically involves the woman making up a name. Then social services looks for any match and mails a to the wrong address. The person fails to show up, and a default judgment is entered. Finally, when the persons pay is docked, the courts ignore appeals as the person failed to show up.

    There is another less severe aspect of child support which effects far more people. It is called imputed income. There has been a minor problem of people trying to get even by taking minimum wage jobs and having support adjusted accordingly to get even. Now judges can decide how much you should be making and apply the ratios to that hypothetical income. This removes the non custodial parents freedom to start a new career, a business, or even a new life in one famous New Zealand case. In that situation a man got married to a woman in New Zealand and moved there from the US. He made less money in New Zealand and requested that his support be modified. The state court refused, so he adjusted it downward himself. There is a child support treaty with New Zealand and the action was taken to New Zealand courts to garnish his wages. He won that case. The US however found him to be a felon when the arrears hit 5k and took his passport. Not sure how the situation ended, but I assume that he applied for New Zealand citizenship as a political refugee.

    My advice to everyone is don’t have children, ever.

  8. Or perhaps Matt is relying on The Valley Girl Stylebook.

    Perhaps the sun sets in the west?

  9. “My response? How the hell is he supposed to pay it when he’s locked up and can’t work to earn money to pay?”

    I thought we’d put an end to debtor’s prisons in this country.

  10. There is an entire doctrine out there that has been adopted in some states called constructive fatherhood. Under the doctrine, after a man pays child support and acts as the child’s father for a certain period of time it no longer matters if the child is his biological child. The paramount interests here is the “best interests of the child”. Clearly it is in the child’s best interest that the guy continue to pay support. So he does. It doesn’t matter that the slut mother lied about who the father was. All that matters is that the state found some poor schmuck to pay and now he is going to pay. It makes about as much sense and does about as much justice as just randomly picking a man’s name out of the phonebook and declaring that man to be some bastard’s father.

    In some states this guy, will still be on the hook for child support.

  11. I can understand that it is extremely difficult (but not impossible) to re-open a court case. Well, at least he’s getting three hots and a cot. A fresh bologna sandwich beats anything you can find in a dumpster.

  12. “Perhaps the sun sets in the west?”

    Noodling catfish is a hoot!

  13. In some states this guy, will still be on the hook for child support.

    I think in *most* states this would be the case. At the least, it’s very common. DNA typically begins to run out of usefulness in paternity/support cases after one year. And, if menfolk submit to the badgering they get at the (incentivized) hospitals to sign up for the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP go the weasels!), then DNA is of no help at all.

  14. I thought we’d put an end to debtor’s prisons in this country.

    Not when you owe the government money. That’s Contempt of Court. In Camden County, NJ, if you owe back support, not only can they now hold you indefinitely, they put you to work at the recycling yard separating glass from cans. But only if you owe child support on a child whose mother collects welfare.

  15. I can understand that it is extremely difficult (but not impossible) to re-open a court case. Well, at least he’s getting three hots and a cot. A fresh bologna sandwich beats anything you can find in a dumpster.

    The unintended double-entendres in that post about jail are astounding… and frightening.

  16. “My advice to everyone is don’t have children, ever.”

    Seconded.

  17. “My response? How the hell is he supposed to pay it when he’s locked up and can’t work to earn money to pay?”

    I thought we’d put an end to debtor’s prisons in this country.

    You would think that, wouldn’t you?

  18. “Court knew man jailed for a year for non-support was not child’s father.”

    Who was the judge? Maury Povich?

    (Sorry, Mike in PA, I know you beat me to it but I couldn’t resist…)

  19. “..”far” to regularly…”
    joe’s law.

  20. Reading up on the POP thing – that is some serious twisted shit. I am ging to have my first child paternity tested – regardless. seems like the only way you can be safe.

  21. he has failed to make an official request

    Of course the guy should be in jail! He didn’t fill out the right fucking form! I’m surprised he’s not being fast-tracked to a date with lethal injection.

    Thanks for starting my day off with some good news Matt. Jerk.

  22. My boyfriend is paying support for a child that is not his in Washington state. The law here is that if you do not contest paternity in 3 years,and though they knew it wasn’t his because they did a private DNA test, the test was not admissible in court, so the obligation as legal father is his. The real father is known, but could not be forced to participate in the test and now he pays nothing. Even some very expensive attorneys and a huge fight could not turn the states decision around. This is happening too often.

  23. Do we know for a fact this guy didn’t get himself booked into jail intentionally? Honestly, if I was ever homeless and for some reason (addiction etc) lacked the ability to pull myself out of it, I would strongly consider ‘stealing’ a friend’s car for three hots and a cot, as mentioned above.

  24. …and got jailed for contempt.

    Some civil servants, a prosecutor, and a judge should be glad that statement doesn’t read, “…and got jailed for a killing spree, killing a judge prosecutor, and numerous child services employees, after suffering harassment from the courts and state.”

  25. Oh, blackwidow, I think the real father can be made to pay something – if only to get the key scratches out of his car, etc.

  26. I wonder if the liberals who objected to Bush locking up people w/ trial as “terrorists” will have an issue with locking this guy up when the govt knew he was innocent.

    They approve of anything involving the government taking people’s money and giving it to others. Especially children.

  27. I would strongly consider ‘stealing’ a friend’s car for three hots and a cot, as mentioned above.

    Never been in jail, huh? It makes rehab look like a Vegas vacation.

  28. blackwidow,

    Have you considered paying back the poor guy?

  29. How is a court order relieving future obligations not enough notice? Just another reason not to dip your wick in the trash barrel.

  30. It’s another reason to make pregnancy solely the responsibility of the woman. Child support makes little sense in terms of fairness or justice, and it is a perversion of justice in the age of abortion.

    Pregnancy happens to women. Women “choose” (that’s what pro-choice is all about) to keep the child. There’s no reason to put the sperm donor on the hook for the woman’s choice.

  31. Longtorso is an idiot. This has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives. This man was done wrong and taken advantage of and should never have been jailed in the first place. If anything, he should have recourse against the state, the mother, or both. That “child” is now 22 years old and the only contact this guy had was by check. The mother should be jailed.

  32. Reason has covered cases similar to this before. It seems that the guy’s mistake was ever paying child support in the first place. Once the state has a name and an SSN for the “father” then they have no incentive to look further.

    Domo, you’re spot-on about POP being some very scary stuff. I think every man, even gay ones, needs to fear this because it seems that all it takes is a j’accuse from a pregnant woman and you’re presumed guilty…

  33. Not even Kafka does justice to these stories.

    Utterly horrifying. Some woman could just pick your name out of a phone book and you’re screwed.

  34. Jesus Christ. That bitch should be aborted.

    She is a useless fucking fetus that needs to get off my planet.

  35. he has failed to make an official request to be relieved of his remaining obligations.

    Wait, wut?

  36. ‘Pregnancy happens to women. Women “choose” (that’s what pro-choice is all about) to keep the child. There’s no reason to put the sperm donor on the hook for the woman’s choice.’

    Responding like this to the problem of false paternity accusations would be, literally, overkill.

    Because some men are falsely accused, we should stop collecting child support from *real* fathers? We should instead incentivize abortion?

  37. Because some men are falsely accused, we should stop collecting child support from *real* fathers?

    This is very hard for libertarians to answer. Let’s say a child’s parents refused to bring it up. Should that be illegal? Should they be forced to do so, somehow? Or should they be forced to pay for the state to bring the kid up instead? Or should they just face opprobrium and let charities pick up the pieces? I mean, if no-one wants the kid, does it have a (positive) “right to life”?

  38. The state’s Office of Child Support Services says, with sadness more than anger, that Hatley is “dealing with a valid court order,”

    IOW: Reality and justice must conform themselves to our paperwork. By order.

    Asshats.

    I propose that anyone—especially politicians and civil servants—who finds this situation acceptable is a candidate for a finding of incompetency. And institutionalization.

  39. The default judgment issue does seem to be the most atrocious aspect of child support as it lacks even minimal due process protections. It basically involves the woman making up a name. Then social services looks for any match and mails a to the wrong address. The person fails to show up, and a default judgment is entered. Finally, when the persons pay is docked, the courts ignore appeals as the person failed to show up.

    What’s even worse, in most (all?) states if the mother gives the wrong address, even if she knows it’s the wrong address, that doesn’t vacate the child support order. I’m surprised that wealthy and famous men aren’t child support targets. Mom gives the child support authorities a name and false address, waits the statutory 30 days or whatever pathetic time he has to respond, and then hits him up for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in tax-free child support. Who knows how many dozens of children Tiger Woods has fathered! Nothing is going to change until a really rich and famous guy gets gored by the system.

  40. Bob Smith

    Nothing is going to change until a really rich and famous guy gets gored by the system.

    Don’t think that will work. On the one hand, the rich guy will have sycophants in the government that will help him out. On the other hand, ‘everybody’ will assume that it really is his kid, no matter how many DNA tests he has. And how do you know it hasn’t already happened?

  41. And how do you know it hasn’t already happened

    You’re right, I don’t. A man of some wealth and only local repute could have already suffered such a fate. It is more likely, however, that somebody of regional or national repute will be the target of such a scam, since the scammer is much more likely to have heard of them.

    How likely is it that you could launch a child support suit against anybody of sufficient renown without the media finding out about it? What does the target gain by being silent about his being screwed by the system? These factors are why I don’t think it’s happened yet.

  42. Registering births needs bringing into the 21stC … the word of the mother in naming the father should no longer be legally valid, not when we have the technology to ‘prove’ fatherhood through DNA testing. All fathers and children should be DNA tested at the birth.
    If a father’s DNA doesn’t match the child’s, he shouldn’t be on the Birth Certificate, hence he shouldn’t pay maintenance.
    As it is, Birth Certificates just aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on and shouldn’t be a legal document.

  43. >All fathers and children should be DNA tested at the birth.

  44. Matt, unless I missed it, you should probably post an update, with the news that the court DID release him after his Wednesday hearing. I believe he had to demonstrate indigency though, and is not yet absolved of his responsibility to obey the court order. Unbelievable.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/man-jailed-for-child-91830.html

  45. roissy.wordpress.com writes a ton about this sort of thing, and how the state is just screwing men left and right.

    Mandatory Paternity Testing. Bring it up to women and they howl in anger, because it would take away their ability to have kids by an alpha male and abuse some poor sucker provider beta male into providing for it.

  46. nice post…
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  47. Yes, Mandatory Paternal AND Maternal Testing at birth sounds the way forward using a simple swab system.
    OK, at present, Y-DNA only proves ‘father to son’ but I understand ‘father to daughter’ is in the pipeline; in the meantime, at least it would prove 50% of children.
    mt-DNA proves mother to son/daughter and would prevent hospital swaps, fraud etc.
    In any case, governments spend $billions and force us all to have digital passports and ID cards etc, yet Birth Certificates carry no proof of identity.

  48. Personally I think the debt should be shifted to the mother of the child. Since the child is over 18 their is no reason for her to not pay back the state for the two decades of support that was provided for her child.

  49. I was duped into signing a parentasl acknowledgment form because I believed my girlfriend when she said the baby was mine. Back then, there were no dna tests. I have been paying child support and owe back support. The child is 18yrs old. I was denied a dna test by the courts when i contested. My driver’s license was taken away. More than 50% of my pay is taken out to pay for a child that is most likely not even mine! I have not seen this child in years! New laws should be enacted to provide relief to non-biological fathers who have been duped by the system!

  50. I am in a complicated situation and need advice. My partner of 6 years is paying child support to a 7 year old child that is not biologically his. After he found out he immediately cut ties with the child because he thinks it would just hurt even more and she deserves to know the truth. also, he was never able to see the child on a regular basis. It was twice a month until he lost his job. We don’t live together yet, but he has never had money for our son because he pays 400 a month to child support, again for a child who isn’t biologically his. He lost his job in 7/2009 and they’re now threatening him to suspend his license and of course back child support because he isn’t paying right now. When he lost his job the mother told him since he’s not paying he can’t see the child. He had absolutely no idea this child wasn’t his until the 2 year period was over. We also have no idea who the real father is. He did sign the birth certificate because he thought the child was his. The mother waited until she was 3 to put him on child support because they broke up when the child was only 6 months old. I guess that should have been a sign right there but we really didn’t think anything of it. After we took one of those paternity test it came back 0% possibility. My boyfriend text and asked her if she ever cheated during their relationship and if there is any possibility that the child could not be his. She flat out lied and said she never cheated ever…. and There is no possible way the child is not his. I would never think to pin my children on another man, but apperently there are many out there who do.The mothers, child support and the state. I appreciate the laws in place to help those dads who run from their responsibilities. How about those victims such as my boyfriend who have been victimized by deceiving and lying mothers who now can’t take care of their real children because they have to take care of another man’s child? The state say it’s about the child not money.. really? Child support wants money… state gets federal dollars because child support gets money…. Family court want money….. the mother wants money….. Mother is on state assistance so welfare wants money…non biological father will be put in jail if he doesn’t pay money.. and its not about money? So they say it’s about the child.. Yes absolutely the child is going to be hurt just like the father. Is it the father’s fault? No it’s the mother. Is teaching the child to live a lie ok? No it’s not.. What if something medically happened to that child and she needed a donor or something and there is no biological father to save her life? Doesn’t she have the right to know who she really is and where she came from. Part of who we are biologically also has to do with family medical history… Does she not have that right? Since we’re talking about best interest of the child.. How about the victim’s real children who have to go without because money is going out of the home? They are children involved so why are their best interest not considered? There are cases across the country where families have lost their homes because of this. One man was even paying to a child who was living with her mother and her biological father. How crazy is that for someone to pay the parents so they can take care of their own child. Why not make the real fathers pay for their children. The senators are lucky because I am done having children. If not… I would have a baby and name one of their husbands the father and get support from them to see how they really like it. My boyfriend has never been in trouble with law, paid his taxes, and served the military. The mother on the other hand can’t hold down a job, stays on state assistance, and now trying to get SSI so she doesn’t have to work. She sure can party though. State awards her for her irresponsibility. I work full time, take care of my 3 kids, go to school, and pay my taxes like everyone else and this doesn’t seem fair at all. The laws need to change! Other states have changed the laws so I am pretty sure Washington can as well. They put people to jail because of fraud. How is this any different? We are in the early stages of this, so we’re researching and trying to find out what are best options are at this point. One thing is for sure… We are not going down without a big fight.

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