Washington State, Senate Bill 5997
January 31, 2014
I’ve written before about paternity fraud being legal in Washington State and how nothing is being done about it. Now however, with SB 5997, something just might be.
Senate Bill 5997 would allow a wrongly named man to petition in court to rescind an acknowledgment of paternity, challenge a presumption of paternity, or contest an adjudication of paternity if genetic testing shows by clear and convincing evidence that the man is not the genetic father of the child. The petition must be filed within two years (2) after knowledge of facts indicating the man is not the child’s genetic father.
Important point there. Two years after indication.
Under the current Revised Codes of Washington (RCW) if a court ruling based on perjured testimony can be stretched out for four (4) years then there is nothing that can be done about it. Throw up all the DNA tests you want. Will get you nowhere.
That’s why it is called paternity fraud folks.
Also under the current Washington State RCW the courts retain the right to ignore or refuse to allow a DNA test if it still wants to extort money from the wrongly named man. So even if you try to contest a finding of paternity within the four (4) years allowed the court can still say no.
Both detractors and members of the Senate Committee on Law & Justice repeated multiple times that current law gives you four (4) years to contest paternity as if that meant you could. That there is nothing under our State law that says you’ll actually be allowed to is a glaring omission.
Now SB 5997 won’t stop paternity fraud from happening. The Superior Courts of Washington can still slap support orders on any random name from the phone book it wants to. But at least now the courts would have the ability to name the correct person as a child’s father once an error has been shown. And since it would no longer be able to refuse a DNA test for the first four (4) years it would be in the best interest of the child and the courts in naming the correct father to begin with.
And the state isn’t going to lose money.
When SB 5997 is passed the wrongly named man would still have to pay what was owed at the time. Benefits would then add up and be passed on to the correctly named father. Talk about insult to injury. Lied to, cheated on, ripped off, family lost, finally get out from a court order, and then have your license suspended, police arrested and then thrown in jail for being too poor to pay for a child already court ordered not to be yours.
But at least this is a step in the right direction for Washington State.
The State report from the January 20th hearing before the Senate Committee on Law & Justice can be read here:
So, lets review shall we? Taken from said report;“Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: This is a matter of fairness and equity. In many cases there is no legal recourse for a man when he discovers through DNA testing that he is not the biological father but is paying child support. The discovery may happen long after the limitations allowed by law. Paying child support for someone else’s child is very burdensome and affects the ability to support your own biological children. Failure to pay a legal obligation such as child support may result in a driver license suspension or arrest.”
Huh. Now all good points yes, but I was at that meeting and spoke in favor of SB 5997. My testimony, as disclosure for this article, is included at the bottom of this blog posting and my words were, “… you will be arrested, labeled a dead-beat Dad, and then thrown in prison.” Did we stop throwing people in prison for not paying support? Apparently the staff that summarized the report think we have.
I also said, “When the wrong man is named by our courts the first result is that the child’s actual father has his child taken from him by the State, without a finding of unfitness. This is very wrong.” Not to mention supposedly illegal and down right unconstitutional. Washington’s current RCW allow a legal loophole around around the requirement of a finding of unfitness but that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Obviously I feel that the State of Washington can just take your child from you for no reason is unethical, immoral and a serious crime against parent and child alike.
All and all however, the Pro Summary sizes the issue up well enough, Fairness and Equity before the Law.
It takes a big man to step up to the plate and boldly declare that to Olympia. Fairness and Equity before the Law. I would like to thank Senator Jan Angel when she stepped up and did just that by sponsoring this bill. My blog is out of Washington’s 3rd District in Spokane, but however Senate Bill 5997 turns out, the 26th District is lucky to have a Senator with strong ethics that supports Washington State family values with more than just words.
And now, for the detractors, also taken from said report;
“Staff Summary of Public Testimony: CON: This bill could be devastating to the child if left without child support. A person already has up to four years to challenge paternity. This period is longer than most states. We should keep a child-centered approach. Parentage does not require a person to be the biological father.”
Oh hell, where to begin. Lets just go in order here shall we?1) This bill could be devastating to the child if left without child support. * Nothing under SB 5997 hinders the State in collecting support from the child’s birth father. * 5 other states have bills like this. Where are all the case studies of children left without support? 2) A person already has up to four years to challenge paternity. * The Superior Courts of Washington are allowed to refuse a challenge during those four (4) years at will for any reason. * SB 5997 would no longer allow that refusal so the correct man is named as the child’s father within those four (4) years. 3) This period is longer than most states. * 5 other states have anti-paternity fraud laws also. Washington should become the sixth by passing Senate Bill 5997 and take that first step in ending legalized paternity fraud in Washington State. 4) We should keep a child-centered approach. * Then lets give Washington State children a basic civil right to have a parental relationship with their birth fathers. * Then lets no longer take a child from a loving parent without notice, consent or a finding of unfitness. 5) Parentage does not require a person to be the biological father. * There is no reason why you cannot develop a healthy, loving relationship with a father figure in your own life and SB 5997 does not prevent that in any way. Nor does it require that a Father only be a biological one. * A basic civil right to self, identity and a parental relationship with your birth father are basic human rights that I think we should all enjoy. Currently under Washington State law, we don’t. SB 5997 is a step forward in that direction that we should all be supporting. * Father, Step-Father and Mom’s Boyfriend are three different things under Washington State law and family values. Men here are not interchangeable and disposable accessory items for a woman’s family unit. Please stop treating us that way.
Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking about now. “Dude, you shouldn’t hold back like that. Tell us how you really feel.” In my next blog post about SB 5997 I will do just that.
Comments made by Sen. Roach of the Senate Committee on Law & Justice during the bill hearing on Jan. 20th were particularly disturbing. And how exactly she can stress the importance of the child / father relationship on one hand while supporting the denial of that relationship on the other is a mystery I am still trying to untangle.
Sen. Pedersen seems to think the bill gives an unlimited amount of time to contest paternity even though it specifically says, “The petition must be filed within two years (2) after knowledge of facts indicating the man is not the child’s genetic father.” And when the state already has what amounts to unlimited power to enforce support orders, including against any chump who happens to be around at the time, he seems to think that isn’t enough.
Are you frigging kidding me?
So yeah. I’m sure that’ll get a few paragraphs. But it won’t all be rant and rave. Only mostly. I’ll also talk about other victims of paternity fraud in Washington and the hard work they have done to help make this Bill a reality. My ability to participate and support this bill is entirely due to them. And I cannot thank Sen. Jan Angel enough for sponsoring this Bill.
The legislative session this year is a short 60 days and is half way over. Please help pass SB 5997 by voicing your support on the Washington State website. Your message will be sent to every state legislator.
That will officially end this blog posting. My testimony before the Senate Committee on Law & Justice in Olympia Washington, Jan. 20th is below.
Thank you for reading.
“The ends do not justify the means” (title not read)
I support Senate Bill 5997 and applaud the Sponsor, drafters and fellow supporters that have allowed it to be heard here today.
In October of 1998 I was served with notice from the court in Washington that I had been named as a putative father and submitted to the ordered DNA test the very next day. At that time our laws said we had 90 days to contest a paternity suit.
It took 87 days for me to get the test results that showed I was not a father in January of 1999. And even though the court in Spokane County had my test result it was still preparing to press a support order against me for a child it knew wasn’t mine. Simply because the mother wouldn’t tell the state where the actual father was. And even after I did.
Later in that year of 1999 the law was changed from 90 days to contest a paternity suit to only 20 days.
If what had happened to me had only been a little bit later, I would of been 2 months into a default support order before I even received the test result to contest it with in the first place. And at that point nothing could be done about it no matter how many DNA tests I could show.
Washington State citizens now have 60 days to contest a paternity suit, or, until a scheduled court date. Which depending on circumstance, could mean as little as 1 day.
This in a state where it took almost 3 months for me to get a genetic test result from.
When the wrong man is named by our courts the first result is that the child’s actual father has his child taken from him by the state without a finding of unfitness. This is very wrong. Especially when it happens in the face of DNA testing that shows the error.
At the same time, the child is denied a relationship with it’s actual father or even knowing who he is. This is not in line with the family values I was raised with here in Washington State.
Today, 15 years after my experience, I would like to say that things are better but I cannot. If you refuse to pay a support order for a child that isn’t even yours you will be arrested, labeled a dead-beat Dad, and then thrown in prison.
Whether through mistake, omission or outright deception, when the incorrect person is determined to be the father of a child there is still no legal remedy.
Senate Bill 5997 provides that remedy by allowing the wrongly named father to terminate such an order and allows the court to then name the correct person as the father of a child. To date, there are five other states that allow such suits to go forward, and I am here today, to voice my support for Washington becoming the sixth.
The West Report
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