Day by Day

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Are you my Daddy?

That's a pretty serious question, isn't it? Can you imagine a child having to wonder just who their father is? And can you imagine paying child support for a kid that's not yours?

Can you imagine the state not really giving a damn if the child is yours or not? As usual, all emphasis is mine.

Tony Pierce remembers vividly the exact moment in November 2000 when the state of California began trampling on his life. "There was a loud angry pounding at my door at five o'clock in the morning," he recalls. "Very scary."

It was a female police officer with a complaint accusing him of being the father of an 8-year-old girl in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco. "I'm like, "Great! I'm definitely not the father of anybody," he says.

There were excellent reasons to think so. He had never met or heard of the mother of the child. He had never lived in Northern California, and at the time of conception (spring 1991) he was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara, beginning a monogamous relationship that would last for two years. What's more, he's a condom fanatic -- only once in his life, Pierce swears, has he failed to use a rubber during intercourse, and that was "many years after." (He's been a friend of mine for 15 years, and I believe him.) And if the summons had included the mother's testimony (it was supposed to, but did not), he would have seen himself described as a "tall" and "dark" black man named "Anthony Pierce." Pierce is a hair over five feet, nine inches; he is so light-skinned that even people who know him sometimes don't realize he's black; and no one calls him Anthony except his mom.

Step back and take a look at that situation. Just think about that. A name, a description, and people are banging on your door, saying "You're daddy!". And this from a woman he supposedly met nine years ago! In an area of the country he was not in at the time! Oh, and by the way, THE MOTHER'S TESTIMONY WASN'T EVEN INCLUDED! Just a name and a vague description.

The front page of the court document gave simple but misleading instructions: "You have 30 days to respond to this lawsuit. You may respond in one of two ways: 1. File an Answer to the complaint with the Superior Court of Contra Costa County, not with the District Attorney....2. Settle the case with the District Attorney. You may call us at (925) 313-4200 to discuss your case." Concluding incorrectly (but understandably) that he could settle the matter over the phone, Pierce called -- three times that day -- and tried to weave his way through a labyrinthine phone tree. Finally he found a human being, who instructed him to leave a message with a home phone number. The department called him back the next day and left a message; it took another three calls from Pierce before he reached a caseworker for the first time.

"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."

Pierce did everything he was told over the next three weeks of phone tag, except for comprehending that the 30-day deadline for denying paternity in writing was etched in federal law, regardless of what he discussed with Contra Costa employees -- who he says never once told him the clock was ticking. "All they were doing was delaying me from doing what I needed to do," he says. "It's a huge scam -- huge scam....They're just counting the days. They're like, Sucker, sucker, sucker, sucker. ...And this is the government!"

Ah, yes, the efficiency and compassion of Uncle Sam. I don't think I need to say any more. They got their sucker, and now they're gonna bleed him dry.

Two months later, after the phone conversations had ended and he assumed he was off the hook, Pierce received notice that a "default judgment" had been entered against him, and that he owed $9,000 in child support. He was between dot-com jobs, and his next unemployment check was 25 percent smaller; the state of California had seized and diverted $100 toward his first payment. Suddenly, he was facing several years of automatic wage garnishment, and the shame of being forced to explain to prospective employers why the government considered him a deadbeat dad. "That's when it hit me," he says. "I mean, it's mostly my fault -- Fill out the form, dumb-ass! ...But it's so rigged against you, it's ridiculous."

No DNA test. No paternity test. Just some woman's word that a guy who kinda/maybe/sorta looks like him is daddy. Are you scared yet?

What Pierce didn't realize, and what nearly 10 million American men have discovered to their chagrin since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, is that when the government accuses you of fathering a child, no matter how flimsy the evidence, you are one month away from having your life wrecked. Federal law gives a man just 30 days to file a written challenge; if he doesn't, he is presumed guilty. And once that steamroller of justice starts rolling, dozens of statutory lubricants help make it extremely difficult, and prohibitively expensive, to stop -- even, in most cases, if there's conclusive DNA proof that the man is not the child's father.


Here?s how it works: When an accused "obligor" fails, for whatever reason, to send his response on time, the court automatically issues a "default judgment" declaring him the legal father. It does not matter if he was on vacation, was confused, or (as often happens) didn't even receive the summons, or if he simply treated the complaint's deadlines with the same lack of urgency people routinely exhibit toward jury duty summonses -- he's now the dad. "In California, you don't even have to have proof of service of the summons!" says Rod Wright, a recently retired Democratic state senator from Los Angeles who tried and failed to get several paternity-related reform bills, including a proof-of-service requirement, past former Gov. Gray Davis? veto. "They only are obligated to send it to the last known address."

No, not only do they not need proof that you're the father, they don't even need to let you know that you're being nailed. Not you? Too bad. DNA proves it's not you? Too bad. You either jump through hoops, dance like a monkey, and pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to try to clear your name, or you pay child support for YEARS!

Start talking to guys who have been divorced and are paying child support. You'll find hundreds of horror stories, many of them the same. "She got everything, I got the bills." I could tell you stories from my MP days that would scare you silly. Husbands going on deployment, coming home six months later to find some guy in his bed, his wife gave her new boyfriend the car keys, and the kids are at grandma's. Oh, by the way, here are divorce papers, and I get half of your retirement. Yep. Just bend over and take it. One Staff Sergeant in my company refused to re-enlist, because he didn't want to retire and have half of his pay go to his now ex-wife, who was on boyfriend number four at that time.

The "Deadbeat Dad" wave is a scam, a hoax inflicted by the government in order to get more money from guys who've already gone through hell. As a wise man once said, "Follow the Money." He wasn't kidding.

The bottom-line results have been impressive: Since 1993, according to Senate testimony last March by Marilyn Ray Smith, director of the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, child support collection nationwide jumped from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $19 billion in 2001, while paternity establishments more than doubled, from 659,000 in 1994 to 1.6 million just five years later

Nineteen. Billion. Dollars. How much of that is coming from men who aren't the father? More to the point, much of that money goes through the beurocratic system before it reaches it's destination. Did you know that in Washington, you don't pay child support to the parent, you pay it to the state? Yep. You have to cut the state a check, and then the state pays the parent. And oh, by the way, for every payment there's a $25.00 fee.

According to this 1994 survey, there were 241,845 single parents in the Puget Sound area. Let's say that only 150,000 actually recieved child support. That's a rediculously low number, but it's easy to work with.

150,000 X $25.00 = $3,750,000. That's right, folks, Can you say THREE AND THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILLION DOLLARS PER MONTH?! Going DIRECTLY into the state's wallet! That's $45,000,000 per YEAR! And it's ALL taken directly from the person who has to pay child support!

Is your blood boiling yet? Is it any wonder why men are getting screwed on this? There's money to be made! To hell with any kind of evidence, they want the cash!

Ad to this the small minority of women who pop out babies like some sort of human vending machine, the "All men are rapists" philosophy found predominately in the Leftist Feminist movement, the monumental amount of incompetance found in the government, and you have all the makings of a massive fraud campaign directly aimed at men. This is something that men should be screaming mad about. Just think back ten years. Were you sexually active? What if one of your partners decided that you would be able to pay more child support than the actual father? What could you do to prevent being taken to the cleaners?

The state doesn't need your DNA. They don't even need your current address. All they need is a vague description, and some woman's accusation that you're the father. And you have to pay. And pay. And pay.

So think about that question again. You might hear it sometime, from some kid you've never seen. "Are you my daddy?"

Does it matter?

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