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July 23, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Another day, another man being ordered to pay child support for a child who’s not his (ABC7, 7/20/17). For what it’s worth, this case is so egregious that even the Drudge Report is reporting on it. And, much like the Carnell Alexander case in Detroit last year, from where I sit, there are multiple reasons why the court should reverse its order.

Houstonian Gabriel Cornejo woke up not long ago to find a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy knocking on his door. The deputy informed him that he owed $65,000 in child support for a child he’d never met or even heard of. The girl was 15 years old at the time.

According to Cornejo and his lawyer, back in 2003, a woman had gone to court to get a child support order naming him as the child’s father. Cornejo says he never received notice of the case against him. Not only that, but the woman told the court at the time that he was the only man who could possibly be her daughter’s father.

That of course was a lie. We know that now because, between the day the deputy knocked on Cornejo’s door and the present, DNA testing has proven him to not be the girl’s father. In short, the mother had had sex with more than one man at or near the time of conception. She knew that to be the case, but told the court otherwise.

So issue number one is whether Cornejo received notice of the paternity case against him. If he did, then he obviously can’t contest the matter. But if he can show that he didn’t, then the court that issued the original order against him had no jurisdiction over him. Therefore, any order issued was void from the start. Presumably Cornejo’s lawyer will assert that defense.

Issue Number Two is Mom’s lie to the court. Texas law permits a person to, at any time, seek reversal of a judgment against him if it was brought about by fraud, mistake of fact, etc. The judgment against Cornejo was plainly brought about by exactly that and therefore should be reversed.

But enough with the points of law, this case presents other issues.

First, Cornejo is happily married and has three kids he’s supporting. By taking $65,000 from him for a child everyone agrees isn’t his, the state is simultaneously depriving children who are his of – you guessed it – child support. To state the matter as tactfully as I can, that doesn’t make sense. The laws on child support enforcement are rightly criticized for being draconian and unjust, but some argue that supporting children is important enough to outweigh those objections. I of course disagree, but even defenders of the status quo can surely acknowledge that depriving three children of support in order to give the money to another child who’s not the man’s daughter actually contradicts the stated purpose of child support and its enforcement.

Second, as in all similar cases, somewhere in the world there’s a man who is the girl’s father. Apparently, he doesn’t know he has a child and certainly has neither had an opportunity to be a father to her nor fulfill his duty of support. This girl needs to know him and he has the right to know her. But, due to one woman’s fraud, she hasn’t gotten to know him nor he her.

Third, the money being sought from Cornejo long since ceased to be child support. It’s Mom support. The girl is now 16 and will be out of the nest in two years. It certainly doesn’t take $65,000 to support her for two years, so the excess, i.e. about $62,000, isn’t for her support, but for Mom’s.

Fourth, it’s been over 14 years since Mom went to court, established Cornejo’s paternity (albeit fraudulently) and got an order of child support. So where has the state been all those years? Neither her lawyer (if she had one) nor lawyers for the state ever informed Cornejo of his obligation to pay. Nor did they inform him that, at least according to the court, he had a daughter to whom he had enforceable parental rights. This man isn’t some homeless person who can’t be found. He’s an employed family man with kids to support which, as I understand it, he does well. According to the state, he’s supposed to bear responsibility for a court order of which he knew nothing until recently, but neither the mother nor the state has any obligation to simply let him know what’s going on.

Finally, it is crystal clear that the order against Cornejo was, at the very least brought about by the mother’s fraud. It may be that the court had no jurisdiction to enter it in the first place. And there is no doubt that Cornejo’s not the girl’s father. Given all that, what prevents the state’s attorney from simply refusing to enforce the order against Cornejo, locating the actual father and proceeding against him? That is, why not simply do the right thing?

Oh, I know that would require an expenditure of resources and time that the Attorney General’s Office is loath to do, but doing so has one powerful argument in its favor – it would be the right thing to do. Nothing requires the state to take food out of the mouths of Cornejo’s actual kids in order to give it to a woman who has a child by another man. Texas has the power and the opportunity to set this matter aright. It should do so.

 

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#childsupport, #non-paternity, #fraud, #paternityfraud

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