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July 22, 2009
Column #1,456
Why Is Government Destroying Families?
By Mike McManus

Frank Hatley was released from a Georgia jail after more than a year for failure to pay child support even though a DNA test nine years ago proved that he was not the father, reported columnist Phyllis Schlafly this week.

Judge Dane Perkins acknowledged in an August 21, 2001 court order, that Hatley was not the father, but ordered him to pay child support anyway. Although he was freed from making future payments in 2001, Judge Perkins forced Hatley to continue making payments on the $16,000 that he owed.

Why?  Because a 1986 federal law prohibits retroactive reduction of alleged child support, even if a DNA test proved he was not the father.  Also, when a man is sent to jail for five years, his child support arrearages continue to pile up while he is in prison, when he is incapable of paying.

This law, known as the Bradley Amendment (after then Sen. Bill Bradley), refuses to allow a person who owes back child support to declare bankruptcy, like GM was allowed to do, paying only a fraction of the debt it owed to bondholders. 

      The Bradley Amendment also forbids judicial consideration of a person's clear inability to pay. In Frank Hatley's case, he paid $6,000 he did not owe before being laid off from his job of unloading charcoal grills from shipping containers. Although he ended up living in his car, he made another $3,500 of payments from his Unemployment Insurance.

      Neither Republican nor Democratic Administrations have proposed to repeal the patently unjust Bradley Amendment.  Why? The $28 billion collected from largely non-resident fathers, reimbursed the government for $24 billion of its cost of welfare payments to mothers.

      They are a source of revenue from an avaricious government, who views every father who falls behind as a ":dead-beat dad."

      Child support payments are reasonable.  If a man fathers a child, he has an obligation to pay for it. And nine out of ten fathers are current in child support if they have joint custody, as are eight of ten with visitation rights.

      Relatively few are deadbeat dads.

      However, if DNA proves the man is not the father, not only should all child support payments cease, but any past debt should be waived, and past unjust payments should be returned.

      A judge should have the freedom to decide whether a man is too poor to make back payments. Certainly, no one's child support arrearages should mount up if he is in prison.

      Furthermore, if the parent without child custody is making child support payments, the parent deserves regular access to children. I know of one father who has only seen his child five times in a year. He went to court to get regular access, but lost.

      The heavy hand of the law targets the presumed "deadbeat dad," but never lands on the deadbeat mom who refuses dad's access to his children. As Frank Hatley, 50, put it, "Out of it all, I just feel like justice should be served for me in this case," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his release. "I shouldn't have to keep being punished for a child that is not mine."

      Admittedly, Hatley's case is extreme in that his DNA proved him innocent.  However, it is not extreme that he was sent to jail for non-payment.  Students of American history think debtors prison was abolished in America before slavery was abolished.

      However, there are 30,000 to 50,000 fathers in jail for non-payment of child support, according to Mike McCormick, president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

      Dr. Michael Ross, an emergency room physician in Detroit who created the Family Rights Coalition of Michigan to fight for fairer laws, charges "The American dream has been aborted…Our laws and systems have been jerry-rigged to destroy our family lives in the name of individual freedom.

      "It is time to proclaim the vision of our founders and reestablish mankind's biological institutions: marriage and parenting.

      "Marriage is the answer for America and for the world."

      He notes that only 44 percent of U.S. teenagers live with both married parents. The marriage rate has plunged 50 percent since 1970. Divorce has terminated 44 million marriages shattering the lives of 42 million children.  Nearly 40 percent of children are born out-of-wedlock.

      Why?  Often government programs subsidize cohabitation, not marriage. No Fault Divorce laws reward the destruction of marriage, not its preservation. In four out of five divorces, one spouse wants to preserve the marriage, but is not given an equal voice in court to preserve it.

      When will political leaders of either party fight unjust laws that are destroying marriage, and enact laws to restore it?

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