Man jailed for child support, even though he was not the father, released | ajc.com

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fathers rights, state crimes on July 15, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Man jailed for child support, even though he was not the father, released

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A South Georgia man who had been jailed for more than a year for not paying child support — even though he was not the biological father — was released from custody on Wednesday.

“I thank God for this day,” Frank Hatley, 50, said in a telephone interview shortly after his release. “It feels good being free.”

Hatley had sat in a Cook County jail since June 25, 2008, even though a special assistant state attorney general and the judge knew Hatley was not the child’s biological father.

After showing a judge during a hearing Wednesday that he was indigent, Hatley was ordered released from confinement, his lawyer, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said.

The judge, however, postponed deciding whether Hatley must still repay the more than $10,000 in child support the state says he owes. But Hatley does not have to make any monthly payments until that issue is resolved, Geraghty said.

“I’m certainly glad Mr. Hatley has been released but the underlying issue has still yet to be resolved,” Geraghty said.

Two DNA tests — one conducted nine years ago and another earlier this month — proved that Hatley was not the father of Travon Morrison, who is now 21. Even after learning he was not the father, Hatley paid thousands of dollars the state said he owed for support. After losing his job and becoming homeless, he still made payments out of his unemployment benefits.

In the 1980s, Hatley had a relationship with Essie Lee Morrison, who became pregnant. Morrison had a baby boy in 1987 and told Hatley the child was his, according to court records. The couple never married and split up shortly after Travon was born.

In 1989, Morrison applied for public assistance through the state Department of Human Resources. The state moved to get Hatley to reimburse the cost of Travon’s support, and Hatley agreed because he believed Travon was his son.

But in 2000, DNA samples from Hatley and Travon showed the two were not related, according to court records.

With the help of a Georgia Legal Services lawyer, Hatley went to court and was relieved of his responsibility to pay future child support. But he still had to deal with being a deadbeat dad when it was assumed that he was really the dad.

Homerville lawyer Charles Reddick, working as a special assistant state attorney general, prepared an order requiring Hatley to pay the $16,398 he still owed the state for child support.

The Aug. 21, 2001, order, signed by Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins, acknowledges that Hatley was not Travon’s father.

After that, Hatley paid almost $6,000. But last year he was laid off from his job unloading charcoal grills from shipping containers. He became homeless and lived in his car. Still, Hatley made some child support payments using his unemployment benefits.

By May 2008, he apparently had not paid enough. In another order prepared by Reddick and signed by Perkins, Hatley was found in contempt and jailed.

On Wednesday, after being freed, Hatley said he wanted to be relieved from his financial obligations.

“Out of it all, I just feel like justice should be served for me in this case,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to keep being punished for a child that is not mine.”

Man jailed for child support, even though he was not the father, released | ajc.com.

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