Over the last seven years, Walter Andre Sharpe Jr. has been forced to pay $12,000 in child support, jailed four times and estranged from his four children. It all began to unravel seven years ago when he signed a certified letter from Dauphin County Domestic Relations in 2001 and found himself covering the support of a child of another man. In the meantime, the real father — Andre Sharpe — has been living with the girl for the last four years.
This nightmare did not end unitl May 2007 when a judge reversed a finding that Sharpe was the father. But the state agency refuses to seek the return of the money and there appears to be no action planned against the real parents who let this poor sucker get drained and jailed for their daughter’s support.
Moreover, the agency fought his efforts to have DNA testing to prove that he was not the father — a position that should result in someone being fired. Why would the state agency be opposed to a test to determine if the agency was victimizing an innocent man?
The problem here is that the victim was clearly not a particularly adept person and the agency seems more geared toward forcing child support payments than determining the correct parent. I fail to see why the agency is not equally concerned about assisting people who claim to have been wrongly identified.
Sharpe’s problem began when he received a letter that clearly confused him with the real father, Andre Sharpe. Andre Sharpe had a different date of birth, a different Social Security number and different previous addresses. He also knew he hadn’t fathered a child with a woman named Terri Jones on the only trip that he ever took to Harrisburg.
Sharpe made a stupid mistake by not responding, but that is not an uncommon response by many people who assume that the problem will be rectified in time in some bureaucracy.
On May 29, 2001, since neither man attended the conference, Dauphin County Judge Scott A. Evans, as required by law, issued a ruling finding that Walter Andre Sharpe was the father.
Domestic Relations now blames Walter Sharpe, a former trash collector, for not filing the proper motions in court to “disestablish paternity.”
The problem is that it took a reporter less than two hours to track down the real father but this incompetent state agency not only failed to do so but spent all of its time opposing any means to determine the true father. The lawyers for the agency appear to have had little interest in determining if this claim had merit and simply carried out their duties robotically.
During his incarcerations and job terminations, Sharpe had trouble maintaining his real family. In May 2005, his 15-year-old son, Walter Andre Sharpe III, was murdered by a robber in Norristown.
Andre Sharpe says that he did not know that Jones and the child’s grandmother were seeking support since he claimed to have been supporting the child. The grandmother says that she did not receive the support money while the girl lived with her and that she simply would throw out Domestic Relations notices without opening them. However, Sharpe’s lawyer says that Battle fought efforts to get DNA testing.
What about the mother? Someone received this money and Andre Sharpe says that he has had regular contact with Jones. It seems to me that there is not just gross incompetence by the state agency but fraud to be pursued in this case. It also shows how, once again, domestic relations courts and staff need to be reformed in this country. It seems that these agencies are a steady force of scandals and injustices. What is truly galling is how this agency fought all efforts to determine the truth and now blame the victim.
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