A Detroit man on Tuesday lost what might have been his last chance to avoid paying $30,000 in back child support for a child that isn’t his.
WXYZ reports Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Kathleen McCarthy told Carnell Alexander he should have taken care of the problem years ago and was therefore responsible for paying the support.
But Alexander says he never knew that an ex-girlfriend declared him the father of a child he never met. He didn’t learn that until the mid 1990s when he got pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer told him he was under arrest for failure to pay child support.
Alexander discovered that a good deal of the problem was because a process server said that in the late 1980s he was served a summons to appear in court for a paternity suit. The server signed a document saying that Alexander had been served the papers at his father’s home in Highland Park but he refused to sign the summons.
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“I wasn’t there. I couldn’t refuse to sign,” Alexander told WXYZ in October.
And he wasn’t. Department of Corrections documents prove that he was in prison at the time for a crime he committed when he was a young man.
This week, Alexander said he couldn’t believe the case was moving forward.
“How can you start a case with a lie?” he said. “The mom lied. The process server lied. Now I have to pay for it.”
The judge told him he failed to file to documents in a timely manner that would have cleared him from the financial responsibilities.
“I am outraged that Mr. Alexander for two and a half decades failed to take this matter seriously,” McCarthy said.
Those documents include a motion to set aside an acknowledgement of parentage.
“That motion must be filed within three years after the child’s birth, or within one year after the order of filiation is entered,” the judge said.
Since the case has gone on for more than two decades, McCarthy said, Alexander has to pay the back child support. It is money he owes to the state for government benefits paid to the child’s mother.
But Alexander said when he was just out of prison and he didn’t have the resources or even the knowledge necessary to find a lawyer capable of helping him.
Over time he did track down the mother of the child and secure a paternity test. It proved he is not the father.
The mother herself acknowledges that Alexander is not the dad and only used his name on one document when she was a single mother trying to secure benefits for the young child. The workers helping her said she had to declare a father so she picked a name.
“That was the only way I could get assistance,” the mother, who was not named, said in October. “Everything is my fault, that I put him through.”
Cherika Harris, an attorney who heard news stories about Alexander’s situation, decided to take on his case pro-bono.
Harris acknowledged that Tuesday’s ruling was a setback, but said she plans to file other motions to get the matter resolved.
Alexander hopes someone will understand that his situation is unique.
“The law is not going to fit into everybody’s situation,” he said. "Why don’t they use common sense?”