Frank Hatley has been sitting in a Georgia jail for over a year for failing to reimburse the state for all the public assistance his “son” over the past two decades. The problem is that the homeless man is not the father of the boy and both the Court and the prosecutors knew that he was no the biological father than they threw him in jail.
Hatley’s case reflects the often draconian bureaucratic system facing parents in disputes over child support. What is interesting is that, despite tests proving that he was not the biological father, Hatley continued to pay child support as ordered until he lost his job and became homeless. Even after living on the street, Hatley made some payments out of his public support checks.
Hatley has been in jail since June 25, 2008. His problems began when he had a relationship with Essie Lee Morrison in the 1980s, who had a baby boy and proclaimed Hatley the father. They were never married and broke up after the boy, Travon, was born in 1987. In 1989, Morrison filed for support from the state, which in turn sought reimbursement from Hadley.
In 2000, tests proven conclusively that Hatley was not the father. However, the system continued to treat him as the father and demanded payment or jail. He continued to comply with orders to pay support, even from his unemployment insurance.
He never filed to ask the state Office of Child Support Services to relieve him of his obligations. However, both prosecutors and the court knew he was not the father when he was jailed, according to reports. Georgia lawyer Charles Reddick, working as a special assistant state attorney general, wrote the order requiring Hatley to pay the outstanding $16,398 and Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins acknowledged in that Aug. 21, 2001 order that Hatley was not Travon’s father. No one seems to have felt any compulsion to take affirmative steps to rectify the situation. After the order, Hatley paid off another $6000 but then lost his job. Reddick then prepared another order and Perkins signed it: finding him in contempt and sending him to jail for not paying more.
Obviously, Hatley might have been able to file for a change with the Department. However, he is homeless and had little money. He had a history of trying to pay regardless of the fact that he should not have been required to pay anything in the first place. What is most disturbing is that lawyers and a judge did not seem to view this as their problem to address. Everyone was on autopilot in the case — issuing motions and orders without any appearance of concern over the obvious injustice to Hatley.
This case is not unique in the jailing of fathers for failing to support children of other men, here.
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