Leigh Adelmann, a father of four from Arizona, remarried a few years ago. His second wife was three months pregnant. After being briefly married, his second wife moved out, telling him she needed space to think. She moved back in when she was eight months pregnant and had the baby. After giving birth, she left again, and filed for divorce three years later. The entire time, Leigh thought the child was his. She listed him as the father on the birth certificate. In 2010, she confessed to Leigh that the child was not his. She moved to Missouri and obtained an order for monthly child support of $910 from Leigh.
Leigh's first ex-wife, who makes a six-figure income and is remarried, insisted on receiving $2,000 each month in child support for their children, even though they both share custody of their children. Default child support orders assume that fathers are working full-time at minimum wage pay level or above. In reality, state audits reveal that 80 percent of default dads don't even make that. Leigh is a self-employed contractor in the construction business, and when the economy went sour, he got behind on child support to the two women. By the time all the child support and arrears had amassed last year, he was required to pay $4,800 monthly in child support to the two women. The absurdity of this can be seen when contrasted with the average income in Arizona, which is only $2,140 per month.
On October 25, 2012, Leigh was arrested for a warrant out of Missouri for failure to pay child support, and extradited by law enforcement to a jail in Missouri. His second ex-wife had applied for welfare in Missouri, and in return the state issued warrants for Leigh and her first ex-husband, who was also behind in child support. This was strange since it is virtually unheard of for a state to extradite anyone but the most violent criminals from other states. Usually a perpetrator must have committed a serious felony for a state to spend all the money to transport and house him. Even more bizarre was that both the courts and prosecutors in Missouri and Arizona were well aware that the child was not Leigh's, because I filed briefs on his behalf in both courts and informed them. Leigh recently found from the Arizona court that it is too late for him to dispute paternity.
After three months in the Missouri jail, Leigh was released. He is trying desperately to keep up with the child support payments (and last week was able to get the child support order to his first ex-wife reduced), but is terrified he will not be able to keep up and the Missouri court will throw him back in jail. His friends set up a website to raise money for Leigh's legal defense at freeleigh.weebly.com.
It is astonishing that women can force child support from their innocent ex-husbands without a conscience. Those children will suffer emotional damage growing up knowing they've been used as a tool of revenge to hurt someone. It risks giving sons a low view of women, possibly turning them into women-hating misogynists. Leigh's ex-wife could easily remove his name from the birth certificate and end all of this.
One childless friend of mine did not find out from his ex-wife until a year after her child was born that she was pregnant. By then, it was too late to object to child support in court. He was required to pay child support until the child had grown up, even though he had no interaction with her.
Brandon Parsons, a Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, is forced to pay one-third of his salary to his ex-wife for another man's child. The court refused to reconsider the order because Brandon did not file the paternity legal pleadings with the court until two years after the child was born.
Even if the courts rule in a man's favor, the state may still come after him for unpaid child support. A court in Maine ruled that Geoffrey Fisher no longer had to pay child support for a child that was not his. However, the state revoked his driver's license and came after him for $11,450 in child support. When a man gets behind in child support, the state may cut off any of his licenses, including any professional licenses he may need to earn a living like teaching credentials and state bar memberships.
The tide is slowly turning in some places. Some states have passed paternity fraud legislation, although most of the laws are too weak to make much of a difference. In 2004, the California Court of Appeals ruled in County of Los Angeles v. Navarro that a six month statute of limitations did not apply to set aside an old default judgment against a paternity fraud victim. Some fathers are obtaining justice by suing for damages, instead of trying to retroactively modify paternity and child support. In Tennessee, a court awarded damages in Hodge v. Craig to a man equal to the child support he'd paid over the past 15 years, under the common law remedy of intentional misrepresentation. Richard Rodwell, a British man whose wife fooled him into thinking children she had through affairs were his, was awarded $40,000 in damages in February from a lawsuit he filed against her.
These were the few fortunate men who had the resources to fight the system. In order to try and achieve justice, it requires a lot of money, time and perseverance by paternity fraud victims to maneuver the complex court system which is biased towards mothers. This situation can be fixed by holding the biological father responsible for child support, not the innocent man dragged into this by a greedy and ruthless ex-wife. Right now women are not prosecuted for paternity fraud. They should be, because it would stop a lot of the bad behavior.
It is brutally unfair as well as sexist towards men, that a mother can decide she does not want a child, and abort the child or place it after being born at a fire station, deserting the child with no consequences. She will never be required to pay child support. A man does not have that option. He cannot even stop the child from being aborted. It takes two people to have sex. Both should be treated equally under the law, instead of forcing men to act as a welfare system for women.
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