07 Dec 2008

Man Jailed for Neglecting Child Support…But the Child Wasn’t His

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My wife alerted me to this story:

A Philadelphia man was forced to pay more than $12,000 in child support for another man’s daughter and spent two years in jail for falling behind on payments.

And of course:

He served four six-month jail terms for not keeping up with support payments between 2001 and 2005, then lost his job. Petitions he filed for DNA testing were opposed by the court’s domestic relations officials and denied by the judge.

In May 2007, the paternity order against Walter Sharpe was overturned after the girl’s mother and grandmother failed to show up to a court hearing. But the judge ruled in October that Walter Sharpe was not entitled to compensation.

Walter Sharpe and his attorney, Tabetha Tanner, claim his identity was stolen in 2002, when he met with agency officials and provided identification showing he was not the father. Instead, his personal information was entered into the agency’s computer records, he said.

Officials in the court’s domestic relations office would not respond to the newspaper’s questions. They said in court papers that they determined Walter Sharpe was the father “after reasonable investigation.”

The lesson is, even for things that you might think are OK for the government to enforce–“C’mon, I got no sympathy for deadbeat dads!”–you need to realize that once you give a monopoly institution the power to do the “right” thing, it might just, well, behave like the government.

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