Columnist Charita Goshay laments a court system that seems determined to eschew common sense.
I have the good fortune to know many men who are great fathers. How can I tell? Because of the way they talk about their kids. Because of what I see when they’re with their children, be it T-ball or a tea party.
Because on this job, I get to see plenty of crummy dads in action – or rather, inaction.
Though children have the capacity to love unconditionally, they’ll expose you for who you really are, especially if you’re a schmuck. But sometimes, the schmuck-in-question actually is a victim of a nonsensical legal system.
Take the case of Francisco Rodriguez, a $9-an-hour massage therapist from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who owes more than $10,000 in back child support for a child who isn’t even his.
Rodriguez didn’t even know the 15-year-old girl existed until 2003. Despite an affidavit from her mother declaring that he isn’t the father, the state is hounding Rodriguez for child support. He even spent time in jail for being a “deadbeat” dad.
How did Rodriguez get into such a fix? He missed the deadline for contesting paternity, not because he was a slacker, but because the state’s child-support order didn’t arrive until well after the deadline to contest it.
Where’s the punishment for that?
Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s … Maybe
A court has ordered a new set of DNA tests for Rodriguez, the mother and the girl, but the latter two failed to show up for testing; yet no warrant has been issued for the mother’s arrest for contempt.
Why is the system so efficient in his instance, but not hers?
Sure, we can offer the requisite finger-wagging about unprotected sex, but that isn’t the issue, not this time. Yes, marriage generally prevents such drama, but we’ve all heard whisperings about babies who “don’t look like anybody.”
If the state truly were concerned with the child’s support and paternity, they would be making more of an effort to find her real father, not dog-piling Rodriguez simply because he was the one caught in the leg trap.
And why shouldn’t the mother of a child who lies about paternity be prosecuted for perjury, or fraud and theft? The hundreds Rodriguez has paid in support of someone else’s child could have benefited his own family.
And wouldn’t an honorable woman pay it back?
It’s no coincidence that most media outlets shun support and custody stories. One, their sheer numbers make an equitable approach virtually impossible; and two, no matter what gets written, it is the journalistic equivalent of pouring gasoline onto a fire.
Too often, children are wielded by squabbling parents as blunt instruments.
Women who use custody to punish men who are trying to be good and responsible fathers are as culpable as those men who spread children about like apple seeds without regard for their care and nurturing.
Perhaps the answer is mandatory paternity testing, as some fatherhood activists are advocating, but it’s sort of a shame that such a thing may be necessary, isn’t it? However, to force someone to support a child who clearly isn’t his is flatly unfair. It is parenthood at gunpoint.
There must be space in the law for common sense. If ever a case needed a good dose of it, this is it.
Reach Canton Repository writer Charita M. Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.