Child-support bill stalls
SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would allow an Edgar County man to stop paying child support for a teenager who isn't his was placed on hold by an Illinois Senate committee Tuesday.
Brad Entrican of Paris told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has been paying child support for years but didn't learn until 2011, after DNA testing, that the boy, now 13, isn't his. Attempts to resolve the case through administrative procedures and in the courts failed because Entrican had not filed his petition within the two-year statute of limitations, said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who sponsored the bill (SB 1867) to help the Paris man.
Rose's bill would allow a man to continue to challenge a finding of paternity after the statute of limitations has been filed when there is DNA evidence supporting him.
Rose agreed to hold the bill in committee for another week in hopes that the Department of Healthcare and Child Services can resolve the issue without legislation.
But Rose said after the committee meeting that he isn't optimistic of a positive outcome because of federal regulations.
"The federal reg says you only have so long to challenge a paternity and then it's over," he said.
Entrican didn't challenge the paternity until the summer of 2011, after meeting the boy for the first time, he told the committee Tuesday.
He had failed to appear for a scheduled genetic testing in 2001, he said, because he had no reason to doubt he wasn't the boy's father.
"Texas just did a bill on this to get around that federal reg for this circumstance," said Rose, who at one time handled child support prosecution cases in Champaign County. "My hope is that (the department) will come back and find that this can all be done easily internally, and I will happily table this bill. My suspicion is that's not going to be the case based on the research we've done."
Several senators seemed to sympathize with Entrican's circumstance, noting that under the law someone who legally acknowledges paternity can move to have that overturned.
"So we give them access to this in a situation where they voluntarily sign and said, 'Yes, I am the father.' We give them that opportunity," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. "But here we have a gentleman who didn't do that. He did not sign a piece of paper saying, 'I am the father.' He did sign an agreement saying I pledge to be bound by the results of the DNA test and then he didn't show. That's true.
"If we're going to give the person who signed the slip saying 'I am the father' an avenue to show there was a material mistake of fact, how can we not give (Entrican) at least the same avenue? And surely the DNA test that shows he is not the father is a material mistake of fact."
Even the administrator of the state's child support services section acknowledged the situation seemed unfair.
"Do I think that Mr. Entrican should be personally and financially liable for a child he has seen two weeks out of 13 years, and who is not the biological father? We all have common sense and common sense would say that that does not seem to me to be a fair and just outcome," said Pam Lowry of the Department of Healthcare and Child Services.
"There is a point of law here that is bigger than this particular issue. Finality, the idea of what a parent is. We adults make children and we make decisions about that and sometimes they are very poor ones. At some point we have to think that there is a child involved here."
But Righter argued, "I appreciate the principle of finality. It's an important one. But as the law that we're referencing demonstrates, finality at some point surrenders to a newly discovered truth."