I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Corruption within welfare offices seems to be normal when they are after fathers who may not be the biological parent

The end justifies the means! I've had my own dealings with feminist welfare workers, one in particular is a self styled cheerleader for professional victims real and imagined, who had a bad marriage and a public fight over child support and matters relating to her former life as a "practicing" lawyer. Practicing is in brackets as, based on court transcripts of her divorce and financial settlement, something other than being a lawyer was involved as part of a settlement agreement and she has since become a welfare worker and advocate for perceived abused women. I often wonder how male welfare recipients are treated within this system. They think because they are dealing with men anything goes including slander and guilt without proof, investigation or verification of the facts. See Chapter 17 for my own battles with a form of corruption that was fully supported by the city's chief legal counsel. The following story of bias and corruption though is tragic as the victim went to jail 4 times, lost his job and was kept from seeing his biological children. The reporter who told this story is to be congratulated for doing a service in uncovering how corrupt the system is.MJM

Man pays for county mistake

He lands in jail and loses job over wrong ID in support case
Sunday, November 16, 2008
BY PETE SHELLEM
Of The Patriot-News

When Walter Andre Sharpe Jr. signed for a certified letter from Dauphin County Domestic Relations in 2001, he didn't know he was signing on for a seven-year nightmare.

Since then, the Philadelphia man has been thrown in jail four times, lost his job, become estranged from his four children and spent more than $12,000 to support the child of another man.

It finally stopped in May 2007 when a judge reversed a finding that he was the father.

But the same judge has since ruled that Sharpe is not entitled to any compensation, not even the money he was forced to pay to support the child.

Sharpe's attorney, Tabetha Tanner, said the county Domestic Relations office "stole" Sharpe's identity by exchanging his date of birth, address and Social Security number for that of the father.

The agency fought Sharpe's attempts to have DNA testing and said it determined he was the father "after reasonable investigation."

Yet it took The Patriot-News less than an hour to track down the real father, Andre Sharpe, who said the girl that Walter Sharpe has been paying support for has been living with him for the last four years.

But in court papers, Domestic Relations blamed Walter Sharpe, a former trash collector, for not filing the proper motions in court to "disestablish paternity."

"What type of investigation were they doing if you can track this guy down in less than eight hours?" Walter Sharpe asked. "It just pisses me off. I tried my best to clear myself of this case, and it fell on deaf ears. It's like I'm guilty until proven innocent. I'm just another man crying, 'I don't know this person. I don't have their kid.' It's a routine they're just used to."

His big mistake:

When Walter Sharpe received the certified letter on Feb. 6, 2001, he knew the complaint for child support was a mistake.

Andre Sharpe had a different date of birth, a different Social Security number and different previous addresses.

Andre Sharpe also had an 11-year-old daughter with a woman in Harrisburg, and Walter Sharpe knew he had been to Harrisburg only once, to register a car. He also knew he hadn't fathered a child to a woman named Terri Jones on that trip.

So he ignored it.

Big mistake.

The letter required Andre Sharpe to attend a Domestic Relations conference on March 6, 2001.

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.

A month later, Domestic Relations entered an order requiring him to pay $447 a month support along with $5,730 in arrears.

When the agency attached his wages at the trash company J.P. Mascaro & Sons, Walter Sharpe told his boss there was a mistake. He then received a notice from Domestic Relations telling him to come in to verify his claim of mistaken identity.

Instead of fixing the error, the office changed the personal information on the case to match his, Tanner, his attorney, said in court documents.

"Incredibly, without any order of court or hearing, Domestic Relations stole the identity of [Walter Sharpe] by willfully substituting his biographic information for that of the biological father's," Tanner said in those documents.

Falling behind on support:

Walter Sharpe couldn't keep up. He had been paying child support for his four children from a former marriage in Montgomery County, but the new burden overwhelmed him.

When he fell behind on support for his real children, their mother inquired about it and believed he had fathered another child while they were married. She cut back on his contact with his children, he said.

Then Walter Sharpe started getting locked up on contempt charges for not keeping up with support payments. He was sentenced to six-month jail terms four times -- Nov. 15, 2001; Dec. 23, 2003; March 23, 2004; and Aug. 16, 2005.

Dauphin County Domestic Relations also seized his bank accounts.

As a result of the incarcerations, Walter Sharpe said, he lost his job at J.P. Mascaro & Sons, where he was making close to $40,000 a year. He ended up finding several minimum-wage jobs as a gas station attendant but lost those as well because of his jail time. He remains unemployed today.

While incarcerated, he filed petitions for DNA testing on his own, all of which were opposed by Domestic Relations and denied by the court.

Open for reconsideration:

Walter Sharpe's 15-year-old son, Walter Andre Sharpe III, was murdered by a robber in Norristown in May 2005 after walking his mother to work. Sharpe partially blames himself because the situation with the Dauphin County case had separated him from his family.

Finally, in 2007, he got enough money to hire Tanner, who filed for DNA testing. The court granted the order, but the child's mother and grandmother repeatedly failed to show up for the tests. The grandmother, Jean Battle, claimed she was raising the child.

At a May 31, 2007, paternity trial that Jones and Battle did not attend, Evans, the judge, vacated the paternity order and canceled all arrears.

Tanner then sought compensation for the money Walter Sharpe paid into the system and for losses he incurred as a result of the mistaken identity.

After a year, Evans denied that petition Oct. 21 without explanation. Evans said he is unable to comment because the case is open for reconsideration or appeal.

Easy to locate:

Jones started the ball rolling when she filed for welfare in 1996. Under state rules, she had to identify the child's father so the state could seek reimbursement of the support payments.

She was one year off on Andre Sharpe's birth date and listed a prior address.

Tanner speculated that Domestic Relations came across her client because of his support case in Montgomery County. She said that instead of investigating further when he showed them he wasn't the right guy, the agency changed his information.

Had the agency looked a little further, it would have found Andre Sharpe living in Philadelphia. He has had custody of the child since she was brought up on juvenile charges.

He was easily located through court records and a commonly used search engine.

Andre Sharpe was surprised to hear that Jones and Battle were seeking support. He said he has always been involved in the child's life and helped Battle raise her, contributing money when necessary.

He said the girl is about to turn 18 in January and will graduate from high school next year.

He said Jones had custody of the child only for about a year. Jones lives in Philadelphia but could not be located for comment.

Battle claimed she told Domestic Relations years ago that Walter Sharpe was not the father. She could not recall the date but said she went to the office during her lunch hour. When no one came out, she said, she told the receptionist why she was there and asked her to put a note in the file.

"I figured the message would get to whoever it was supposed to get to," she said.

She also said she never received any child support payments for the girl, but received welfare for her for "a couple years." She agreed that Andre Sharpe always contributed to the child's upbringing.

She claimed to be unaware of Walter Sharpe's problems, saying she would throw out Domestic Relations notices without opening them.

However, Tanner said that when she was trying to force Battle to produce the child for DNA testing last year, officials from Domestic Relations told her Battle refused and told them to stop harassing her.

Andre Sharpe said he still sees Jones occasionally. She has three other children, he said.

'Ruining an innocent man':

Joseph Barbush, an investigator for Domestic Relations, and Sheila Britt, a lawyer for the agency, who filed answers to Tanner's claims, did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this story. Kim Robison, Domestic Relations' director, said Friday she felt it was inappropriate to comment because Evans' last order is open to appeal.

In court papers, the office stated it repeatedly advised Walter Sharpe to file a "petition to disestablish paternity" and he failed to do so for three years, so he is at fault.

It still claims he can't prove he is not the father because there are no DNA tests to show that, despite the fact the agency repeatedly opposed his requests for DNA testing.

"Furthermore, [the Department of Public Welfare] has experienced grave injustice as a result of [Walter Sharpe's] failure to address this matter in a timely fashion," a joint answer filed by Domestic Relations and the state Department of Public Welfare states.

The agency claims that because of Walter Sharpe's delay in challenging paternity, it is unable to recoup support payments from the real father.

"As a result of [Walter Sharpe's] delayed actions in this matter, DPW is forced to suffer unfair and irreversible injury."

But Tanner, who is reviewing appeal options, said the only victim in this case was her client.

"It was much easier for Dauphin County Domestic Relations to get someone, anyone, to pay the child support obligation, even if it meant ruining the life of an innocent man who had his own children to support, than it was for them to expend any additional time or effort in locating the real father of this child," she said.

PETE SHELLEM: 255-8156 or pshellem@patriot-news.com

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