ATLANTA, GA (PRWEB) July 19, 2004
In a precedent-setting case (County of Los Angeles v. Manuel Navarro, B155166, California Court of Appeals, 2nd district, Division 8, filed 6-30-04) with major national implications, a California appellate court reversed a trial court ruling that forced Manuel Navarro to financially support another man’s children. Navarro has no relationship with the children, and he proved by DNA testing that he is not the children’s biological father.
After years of court battles to vacate his paternity judgment, Navarro has finally found legal relief for his paternity fraud situation – at least temporarily. Los Angeles County was attempting to force Manuel Navarro to pay $ 247 a month in child support for 2 boys born in December 1995. It turns out that a “Manuel Nava” had been named as the dad, which resulted in the County’s paternity complaint against Navarro in March 1996. Manual says he never received the summons to pay child support. In addition, he has always denied paternity of the 2 boys. When Navarro did not respond to the complaint within the required 30 days, in July 1996 the court declared Navarro the legal father in a default paternity judgment and set up child support payments.
According to the National Family Justice Association (NFJA), the Navarro case is not unusual. Glenn Sacks and Dianna Thompson wrote that in 2000 in Los Angeles County, 79 percent of paternity judgments were default judgments. Nicholas Riccardi and Greg Krikorian wrote about L.A. County in a 1998 Los Angeles Times report on child support, “No one knows how many men are wrongfully pursued for child support, though the district attorney’s own records show that on average more than 350 a month are incorrectly named as fathers.”
The National Family Justice Association says paternity fraud is not only a problem in California; it’s much more pervasive. A fact that many find astonishing is that many men nationwide are forced by court order to pay child support for other men’s children, or face jail time or other harsh punitive measures such as liens, loss of driver’s and business licenses, damaged credit reports, garnishments, and income tax refund and bank account seizures. These deceived men are referred to as “duped dads” by some. In 2000, The American Association of Blood Banks found that in almost 30 percent of the paternity tests conducted the man being tested was not the biological father.
According to Carnell Smith, NFJA executive director and the driving force behind the landmark Georgia paternity fraud legislation that became law on May 9, 2002, “This is a huge problem. We estimate that as many as 1 to 3 million men are victims of paternity fraud, and many don’t even know it. I have to commend this California appellate court who made a brave, correct, and common sense ruling that recognizes true family values. The court wrote in strong language that ‘We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result.’ I say, good for them for telling the truth. Too many families – including men, women, and children – are suffering under archaic laws regarding paternity. Paternity fraud is also one consequence of marital infidelity that is little touched upon. What do you do when an extramarital affair results in a pregnancy?”
NFJA believes biological parents have a fundamental liberty interest to love and raise their own children without unnecessary and unfair state intrusion into the private realm of the family.. It is a basic and precious right.
“We owe it to our children that they have the opportunity to know their biological parents. As a society, we can’t just say any man will do as dad, which is what we are really saying when we nonchalantly name a ‘legal father’ by default or otherwise. This devalues fathers and fatherhood,” said Carnell Smith.
Smith believes children deserve to know the biological truth about their parentage. He says paternity fraud also cuts children off from their biological fathers and their extended families, including paternal grandparents who simply want to love the child.
“Of course, duped dads who have grown to love the children as their own are important too, but a child has enough love for both ‘dads.’ It’s up to the adults involved to understand what the child inherently understands. Any child has enough love to go around, and children thrive the more people love them,” said Smith.
NFJA would like to encourage Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to look into the paternity fraud issue in his state. We hope that he will act to correct the default problem that is rampant in California and also help all California families that are ensnared by paternity fraud. NFJA is ready and willing to provide educational support on paternity fraud to Gov. Schwarzenegger, if requested.
“These cases are clearly unjust. For example, two former members of the military – a married couple – testified regarding their paternity fraud case at a public California Senate Judiciary hearing. The wife showed two valid child support court orders for two different men who were both ordered to pay child support for the same child. It was shocking. This child had two ‘dads’ paying child support,” said Smith. “In part, because of situations like this, too many men fear courts and relationships. Some of them avoid marriage and commitment after seeing what happens to their friends and relatives in court. With the way things stand now, I can’t blame them. Somebody please warn our military men, “said Smith.
According to NFJA, this new California Second Appellate District ruling may offer hope to “duped dads” like California father, Bert Riddick. Riddick, his wife, and 3 children suffer as a result of a California default paternity judgment which, according to Thompson and Sacks, demands that he pay $ 1400 a month in child support and arrearages for a child proven by DNA testing not to be his and whom he has never met.
“Would somebody please step forward to do the right thing to help these families? They and their children have been suffering for years. It’s time to stop this blatant injustice. They shouldn’t have to wait any longer for relief,” said Smith.
For more information or to book media interviews with NFJA executive director, Carnell Smith, please call the National Family Justice Association (NFJA) at (330) 534-3510 or e-mail NFJA, care of Jane Spies, at firstname.lastname@example.org Visit http://www.NFJA.org for more information.
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