By Reynold N. Mason Esq.
Shane Seyer was 12 years old when his mother dropped him off at the home of a neighborhood friend for the first time. She had to work and Shane was not yet old enough to be left home alone. By the age of 14 Shane Seyer was a father. The caregiver, an older woman had begun a sexual relationship with the boy that ultimately led to her pregnancy. The woman, unable to find work to support herself and the baby, applied for welfare (AFDC) [see: War against fathers Part 1]. She was paid more than $7,000.00 for the support of the child before Welfare demanded that she sue the father to establish paternity. The Welfare Agency brought an action against Shane, now 14 years of age, to establish paternity and compel him to repay to the State the money paid to the mother for the support of his son. They say love begets love. But in Shane’s case love begat an unwanted child.
And since the love of money is the root of all evil, all heck broke loose. Shane defended himself by claiming that he was under the age of consent at the time the baby sitter took unlawful liberties with him and became pregnant. The sitter was charged with statutory rape because the boy was not old enough to consent to the activity, although he admittedly engaged in it voluntarily. The sitter was unwilling to pursue Shane for child support, but had no choice in the matter. Under AFDC, she had assigned her right to any future order of child support to the state, and they were hell bent on getting their money back. Shane was hauled into Family Court for child support. And at the tender age of 15 he found himself standing before a family court judge, beads of perspiration oozing from his pores, giving him the appearance of a diver emerging from a dip in the pool.
The tension in the court room was palpable. The boy’s mother was inconsolable. The babysitter and her family sat at counsel table staring straight ahead. As the judge reentered the court room to deliver his decision, all heads turned and a hushed silence descended on the room that just moments ago was abuzz with the chatter of anticipation. Everyone had an opinion, and the people in court room divided themselves into two tidy groups, one to the left and the other to the right of the center aisle. One group lining up behind petitioner, the babysitter and the AFDC lawyer, the other behind Shane and his family,( who had turned out in force, ) depending on where their sympathies lay. The judge, stern and robed in judicial black sat down and intoned the usual pleasantries, then in his deep judicial tenor Said “ladies and please be seated”. Never before in the state of Kansas had this issue come before a court. Much hung on this decision.
“THE ISSUE BEFORE THIS COURT” said the judge, “is whether an underage alleged victim (alleged, huh!) of a sex crime can be held liable for the support of a child born as a result of such a crime…..” What the court uttered next still echoes in the ears of parents in Kansas and elsewhere. “If voluntary intercourse results in parenthood,” said the court, “then for purposes of child support, the parenthood is voluntary. This is true even if the 14 year old boy’s parenthood resulted from a sexual assault upon him within the meaning of the criminal law.” Wow! What this means for all fathers, old or young, is that is that there is no escaping the obligation for child support. Shane was held liable for the support and maintenance of the child, even though he was a minor and a sexual assault was committed upon him resulting in his becoming a father at tender age of 14. This is not ancient legal doctrine. It happened in the 1990’s and is still the law today.
How would you have ruled had you been the judge? Please limit our comments to 100 words or less.