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(An aside:  Anyone who reads Reason Magazine (as I do) already knows Matt Welch's story.  You can find his story online at http://www.reason.com)

Paternity: Innocence Is Now a Defense
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
By Wendy McElroy

On June 30, a California man being forced to pay child support for a child he had not fathered got his day in court when the Second District Court of Appeal of California overturned a paternity judgment against him.

Los Angeles County, which had imposed the judgment, knew that Manuel Navarro was not the father of the child in question because DNA testing had proved so. Yet under both federal and state child-support laws, the county was still able to demand Navarro pay child support.

The court's landmark decision in Navarro’s favor may well become the controlling authority for contested paternity in California and a legal precedent nationwide.

Navarro's case is typical of the false paternity claims and child-support laws that prompt men’s-rights activists to condemn the family-court system as being virulently unfair to men.

When an unwed mother applies for welfare in California, the Department of Child Support Services routinely requires her to name the father(s) of her children.

The information provided is often incomplete. Moreover, even though the mother signs a declaration under penalty of perjury, false declarations go unpunished.

In March 1996, Los Angeles County filed a complaint to establish the paternity and child-support obligations of a "Manuel Nava" who had been named as the father of two boys receiving public assistance
Based on the information the mother provided, authorities determined that Navarro was the father in question and served him with a complaint.

The county says it made "substitute service" of its complaint by leaving a copy of the summons with "Jane Doe," who was identified as Navarro's "sister" and "co-tenant." Another copy was sent by first-class mail.

The complaint would have asked Navarro to file a written denial of paternity within 30 days, as mandated by federal law. Otherwise, fatherhood would be presumed.

Navarro did not respond to the complaint within the 30-day time period — he claims he never received it.

In July 1996, a court judgment established Navarro's paternity and ordered $247 a month in child-support payments.

Penalties for evading child-support payments can include the inability to obtain a driver's license and other business or professional "licenses" such as teaching credentials.

Credit ratings can also be ruined and the State Department may refuse to issue the "deadbeat dad" a passport. Thus, even if the court-ordered support is not garnished from wages, falsely named fathers have powerful incentives to pay up.

In July 2001, Navarro filed a motion to set aside the court's judgment because a blood test proved he was not the boys' father. Although both the federal and state "challenge periods" had long passed, he argued that the mother had committed fraud by naming him.

He also claimed to have never received the original complaint or default judgment. The court denied the motion.

Navarro's case is not unique. For example, in California, in serving child-support judgments, "substitute service," rather than "personal service," is a common practice.

A March, 2003 study prepared at the request of DCSS, "Examining Child Support Arrears in California," found that most complaints in California are delivered by substitute service, "which suggests that noncustodial parents may not know that they have been served."

"In Los Angeles County in 2000 ... 79 percent of paternity judgments were decreed by default," father's-rights advocate Glenn Sacks explains. "Most of these men had no idea they were 'fathers' until their wages were garnished."

In an article entitled "Injustice by Default: How the effort to catch 'deadbeat dads' ruins innocent men's lives," journalist Matt Welch asked California DCSS Assistant Director Leora Gerhenzon what would happen if a woman had named "Matt Welch" — a white guy between 30 and 40 years old, who maybe lives in the Los Angeles area, as the father of her child.

Gerhenzon answered, "We run our search on him; if we come back with one Matt Welch who lives in L.A., whose birthday fits that 10-year range, and we have nobody else, we presume in general we have the person."

The argument could be made that current laws encourage false-paternity claims. To receive federal funds on child-support orders, states must name the fathers of the children on assistance. Since there is no federal requirement for DNA testing for paternity, there is no state requirement.

Indeed, father's-rights advocates argue that there is an incentive for states to bypass costly testing which might rule out fatherhood. In 2002, former California Gov. Gray Davis admitted that $40 million in federal funds could be jeopardized by widespread paternity challenges.

For this reason, among others, in 2002 Davis vetoed the California Paternity Justice Act, (AB 2240), which would have extended the challenge period and vacated judgments against falsely named "fathers." Women who knowingly signed false declarations of paternity would have been liable for criminal prosecution.

(Another factor in Davis' veto was the political pressure of groups like the National Organization of Women, who successfully argued that passing the act would harm children who might lose support payments.)

In hearing Navarro's appeal, the Second District Court acknowledged that "by strict application of the law, appellant should be denied relief ... Sometimes even more important policies than the finality of judgments are at stake, however."

The appeals court explained, "the County ... should not enforce child-support judgments it knows to be unfounded. And in particular, it should not ask the courts to assist it in doing so. Despite the Legislature's clear directive that child-support agencies not pursue mistaken child-support actions, the County persists in asking that we do so. We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result. We say no to the County, and we reverse."

How many falsely named "fathers" could this decision affect?

A study by the American Association of Blood Banks found that "the overall exclusion rate [of paternity on tested men] for 1999 was 28.2 percent for accredited labs."

That figure is undoubtedly higher than what would be found in a random sample of the general population, as men who request tests already have reason to question paternity.

No one knows the real number. What is clear is that courts across North America must follow the Second District Court's lead and exonerate men from false paternity claims.

Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Joint custody drive kicks off

Dads of Michigan seek law mandating divorced couples must share kids
By Kim Kozlowski / The Detroit News

Fathers would no longer spend thousands of dollars and hours in court fighting for joint custody of their children under a proposed ballot initiative being launched today by Dads of Michigan, a local fathers rights group.

The group is beginning a petition drive, which needs 254,206 signatures by May 26 for the measure to appear on the November ballot, to amend Michigan’s custody law so there is a presumption of joint physical and legal custody of divorcing couples, unless one party is declared unfit.
Family court judges decide custody issues, and fathers have long pointed to statistics that they say shows the system is biased and nearly always favors the mother in custody decisions.

“Right now, the paradigm is one parent is better than the other and will have custody of the children while the other parent should be the every-other-weekend kind of parent,” said James Semerad, chairman of the Dads of Michigan Political Action Committee based in Bloomfield Hills.
Called Children Need Both Parents, the initiative follows two similar but unsuccessful legislative attempts in the mid-1990s and 2002 and a petition drive in 2000 that failed because the 10 people who collected signatures failed to get enough.

This time, Semerad said, there are more than 1,000 people collecting signatures, and many will be outside local post offices Saturday and other days until enough support is collected.

Gary McDonald, a Dearborn Heights father who recently fought for nine months and spent $11,000 to get joint custody of his 2-year-old son, Justin, hopes to see the measure on the ballot and written into law.
“The love from a father is no different from what a mother would have,” said McDonald, 44. “They are equal to begin with.”

Friend of the Court custody recommendations
Out of 13,430 cases in 2002:
* 8,669 cases, or 65 percent, for the mother
* 1,942 cases, or 14 percent, for the father
* 2,594 cases, or 19 percent, for joint custody
* 225 cases, or 2 percent, for a third party
Source: Marcia McBrien, spokeswoman for the Michigan Supreme Court

You can reach Kim Kozlowski at (313) 222-2024 or kkozlowski@detnews.com.


Sunday, March 7, 2004
Cox: Put deadbeat parents in jail
Critics say child support system isn't up to the task of attorney general's proposal
By Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

LANSING — Attorney General Mike Cox, who has gone after child support scofflaws with unmatched fervor, wants to put deadbeats behind bars for up to 10 years if they owe $20,000.

Cox is pushing a package of tough new laws that a state Legislature dominated by fellow Republicans soon will consider. A dads group contends those laws mostly would lock up low-income fathers and those the state’s mistake-prone child support computer incorrectly says are behind in payments.

The legislation also would entitle Cox to an annual printout listing Michiganians who are at least $200,000 in arrears — 442 of them at present — and help the attorney general meet his announced goal of collecting $10 million in overdue child support this year.

Cox soon will have seven attorneys and 14 investigators at work full time on such cases, with the federal government picking up two-thirds of the annual cost of $725,000.

“If you steal $20,000 from a stranger in Michigan, you’re looking at a 10-year felony,” Cox said. “There are graduated penalties for stealing from a Meijer store, or your boss, or a neighbor. Why shouldn’t that also be true if you steal from your kids?”

Cox said there are about 40,000 people who owe at least $40,000 each in back child support in Michigan’s six biggest counties alone. Another 17,000 owe at least $50,000, he said.

His crusade has the spirited endorsement of parents like Cheryl Boyagian, a Woodhaven real estate broker who is unlikely to retrieve more than a fraction of $170,644 in unpaid support for three kids from her ex-husband that built up over 17 years.

“It’s an awesome idea,” said Boyagian, who got help from Cox’s staff so she can recover some of the money. “I had to go on Aid to Dependent Children. There were quite a few nights when all I’d have were a couple of hot dogs for three kids. I feel bad for young mothers who have to go through that.”

With all but one of her children now grown, Boyagian learned in court Jan. 29 that she’ll be able to collect just $88 a week in current support from her former husband, now living in Bowling Green, Ky., until her youngest son turns 18 in October. She’ll be back in court later this month asking for an order specifying how long she also can receive $255 a month in back support.

“If you hold people accountable for their actions, or inactions, they’re more apt to comply,” Boyagian said.

But Murray Davis, a leader in an organization that lobbies on behalf of fathers who have problems with the state’s system of deciding custody and child support, is urging lawmakers to delay action.

“We have a problem with the timing. The system is in such turmoil, riddled with such egregious errors, that there’s no question it’s going to victimize support payers,” said Davis, of Southfield, who is vice president of the National Family Justice Association.

“Innocent people are being sucked up into the big dragnet and abused by the system,” he said.

In Wayne County, which has nearly half the state’s 800,000 child support orders, Chief Judge Mary Beth Kelly supports Cox’s proposal. She has established a court docket giving special attention to parents more than $10,000 in arrears. Prosecuting them netted more than $1 million in 2003.

“There have been too many noncustodial parents who have learned how to manipulate our legal system, and who have resources to support their children,” Kelly said. “Those are the persons for whom criminal prosecution is appropriate.

“I don’t believe criminal prosecution should be used — and I don’t think it is being used — for the financially struggling parent who is trying to support his or her children.”
Critics say the zeal for rounding up child support outlaws is distracting officials’ attention away from badly needed updating of Michigan divorce laws. Noncustodial parents — still mostly dads — would be more inclined to pay support if they were treated more fairly and given more time with the kids when custody is awarded to mothers, they argue.
Cox agreed that divorce issues are broader than child support alone. But he said he’s attacking the part of the problem that’s within his realm as attorney general.

i>Detroit News Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed to this report. You can reach Gary Heinlein at (517) 371-3660 or gheinlein@detnews.com.


LOS ANGELES — The estranged wife of singer Lionel Richie (search) wants $300,000 a month in child and spousal support, saying she had "no limit on what I could spend" during their nearly seven years of marriage.

The couple had "an extraordinary extravagant lifestyle," Diane Alexander Richie (search) said in an income declaration filed along with her support request in Superior Court.

Richie's attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment.
The singer "has never had a problem earning money. I know that he earns in excess of $300,000 per month because we have always comfortably spent at least that in any given month," Diane Richie said in the papers.

She cited the upkeep for their $40 million, 30-room Beverly Hills mansion, which the estranged couple still shares. That includes a $75,000 monthly mortgage and wages for a full-time staff of nine and additional people to "maintain our plants, detail our cars, care for our pool, groom our dog, maintain our aquarium and a painter for regular touch ups on the house," Diane. Richie said.

Diane Richie estimated that she spent $20,000 a year on plastic surgery and $50,000 a month on personal expenses, including $15,000 a month for clothing, shoes and accessories; $5,000 on jewelry; $3,000 on dermatology; $1,000 for laser hair removal and $600 on massages.
"We could comfortably afford to spend unlimited sums of money on everything and anything we chose. I had no limit on what I could spend," she wrote in the Feb. 26 filing.

The couple spent at least $1,000 a month for birthday presents when their 5-year-old daughter, Sofia, attended her friends' parties. They also donated $2,000 to $3,000 a month to charity and to their children's schools, Diane Richie stated.

The Colorado boarding school for their 9-year-old son, Miles, cost $125,000 a year. Their daughter's tuition was $15,000 a year.

Diane Richie, a former waitress, dancer and clothing designer, says she met the singer in 1984 while he was married to his first wife, Brenda, and they married in 1996. She filed for separation in October and divorce in January, citing irreconcilable differences.

Father's Issues / For "TroubledMom" who posts on chat
« on: Feb 25, 2004, 05:07:24 PM »
TroubledMom, I've heard you are very good at understanding CA law.  I cannot log into chat from home due to a computer glitch, and I should not log in from work.  I need a little help with CA law regarding uninsured dental costs.  Please consider e-mailing me at VeronicaGia@yahoo.com.  By the way, lovingwife/oneandonly thought I should contact you.  Thanks!

Rap mogul's former wife seeks more child support
(Original publication: January 21, 2004)

NEW ROCHELLE — The ex-wife of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is claiming she needs more child support for their 10-year-old son and has taken the rap impresario to court to get it.

Yesterday marked the first day of testimony in an effort by Misa Hylton-Brim to secure $30,000 more per month in child-support payments. Hylton-Brim, a fashion stylist for hip-hop artists such as Lil' Kim and Mary J. Blige, said the $5,000 per month she receives now is not sufficient.

Hylton-Brim testified along with real estate agents and accountants in Family Court in New Rochelle.

Combs, who spent most of his childhood in Mount Vernon, did not attend the proceedings.

Brett Kimmel, Hylton-Brim's attorney, said she needs the increase to keep up with her son's expenses, which include private school, a full-time nanny and round-the-clock security.

"The law states that the only way to determine the child's reasonable needs is by understanding the resources of the parties involved," Kimmel said. "This child's needs specifically relate to his father being who he is."

Combs' attorney, Peter Galasso, couldn't be reached yesterday for comment.

"I want to be able to provide everything my child needs," said Hylton-Brim, who has sole custody of her son, though Combs has liberal visitation rights.

Kimmel said Combs has not been forthcoming in providing financial information, despite a high-profile and extravagant lifestyle, and now pays about $30,000 a month for the support of his younger son, whose mother is model Kim Porter.

The trial will resume Feb. 6 because of a crowded court schedule, Kimmel said. Kimmel is an attorney in the firm headed by celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, who is representing David Guest in his divorce proceedings against Liza Minnelli.

In 2002, Combs was named in Fortune magazine's list of 40 richest people under age 40 and is known for hosting exclusive parties in the Hamptons for his celebrity friends.

But he also has a giving side. In November, he raised $2 million for New York City public schools by running in the New York City Marathon.


**Is this insane or what?  How do us humble people live on less than that PER YEAR??  The insanity needs to stop.


Ask Before You Give
Tuesday, December 09, 2003By Wendy McElroy This Christmas, domestic violence shelters across North America are asking for donations of money, clothing, shampoo, soap and the other niceties that a suddenly homeless victim of violence needs.I intend to give generously ... but with discretion. The amount I can donate is limited and many domestic violence shelters promote policies I don't support.

These are the questions I will politely ask. Do you receive government or private funding? I prefer privately funded shelters, largely in a belief that they are more fiscally responsible and more responsive to community feedback. Moreover, privately funded shelters can openly target specific sub-communities for assistance: for example, the elderly who are often abused by caregivers, including spouses, but who receive little attention. Publicly funded shelters are legally required to not discriminate -- at least, in theory. Nevertheless, groups like Stop Abuse For Everyone (SAFE) observe that many people "fall between the cracks of domestic violence services. These groups include men, gays and lesbians, teens, the elderly, and immigrants." Do you accept male victims of domestic violence into your shelter? (A similar question could be asked of any frequently excluded group.) According to a 1998 National Institute of Justice/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, "approximately 1.5 million women and 834,700 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States."(p.2) When the focus is narrowed to assault alone, the rate of victimization is evenly spread between men and women. Yet most publicly funded shelters maintain a "women only" policy despite the fact that agencies receiving tax money are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race or gender. Despite the fact that men are taxpayers. "Women only" shelters claim to be afraid to mingle the sexes but those few that accept both men and women -- such as the Valley Oasis shelter in Lancaster, California -- don't report a higher rate of disturbances. Especially at Christmas, which invokes images of a mother with child, displaced men tend to be ignored. That's why Deborah Watkins of the National Coalition of Free Men launched The Homeless Shelter Project for men, which operates in parallel with the Mask Project. This "is a moving display of masks that are designed and created by male victims of domestic violence (DV)." Symbolically, the masks have no mouths.

Do you offer counseling services for abused spouses who wish to preserve their marriages? The policies of many domestic violence shelters are based on PC feminist assumptions: just as men are always portrayed as perpetrators, marriages in which violence occurs, even once, are always viewed as properly terminated. A growing trend among Latinas, for whom family and children are often paramount, is for couples to work out their relationships, often with the aid of a priest or counselor. Domestic violence is seen as a complex phenomenon that sometimes springs from alcoholism or drug abuse and, so, can be sometimes "treated" by eliminating those factors rather than dissolving the family. Such women are effectively disenfranchised by current domestic violence dogma. A new book from Princeton University, "Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse" by Linda G. Mills, expresses a growing skepticism about the PC approach. Mills observes that as many as half of the women who are in abusive relationships stay in them for strong cultural, economic, religious, or emotional reasons. Rather than assisting these women, domestic violence counselors often re-victimize them by refusing to respect their decision to stay or go. Criminal defense attorney Janeice T. Martin describes the impact of such domestic violence "specialists": ”They can stand by and tell that victim that she doesn't really know what's best for her and her family. She is a victim — how can she possibly know what's best after what she's been through? ... Many of these people know exactly what is best for them and their families, and yet are revictimized by the powerlessness imposed upon them by a system of people who know better."

Does your shelter support pressing charges against male perpetrators of DV if the victims do not wish to do so? Mills writes: "The assumptions underpinning mainstream feminist advocacy efforts are ... that all violence warrants a state response, and that women want to leave rather than stay in their abusive relationships. It is on this basis that mainstream feminists advocated for interventions that called for the state to arrest and prosecute batterers regardless of the woman's wishes." Domestic violence shelters should not be arms of the state that take a legal position on what a victim should do regardless of her/his desires. They should be what their name promises -- places of shelter. (A shorthand way of asking the last three questions is, "Do you believe DV is a gender issue?") The flow of charity should not be hampered but those who give should do so in an informed manner so that they never feel their goodwill has been abused.

As you make these polite inquiries be prepared for an impolite response; many who specialize in domestic violence are not used to being questioned. A rude response immediately tells you to move on to a worthier cause. You may have no choice in whom your tax dollars finance. But those you support from the goodness of your heart should, in turn, support the goodness of your personal values. Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada. Respond to the Writer  

Father's Issues / Can we play a little?
« on: Nov 21, 2003, 12:50:11 PM »
Or is there a specific board you would like us to practice on that won't take up valuable space?

This is going to take some getting used to....LOL!

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