Trust, but verify.
This quote from former president Ronald Reagan is something of a cautionary tale in that confirmation of information is important, needed, and essential. The work of Carnell Smith is more than providing a cautionary tale to people; it’s about ensuring a sense of balance and equity in regards to individual and collective accountability for an issue of serious and sincere importance, but in doing so, can only protect and provide safeguards for all members of our community.
Paternity? Fraud? Try a combination of both.
Through his Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, Smith’s focus is solely on making sure that equal accountability and personal responsibility is at the forefront of any and all cases related to paternity. In making sure both men and women are held equally accountable and responsible, along with identifying discrepancies in the legal statutes and their applications, it is simply about ensuring that all parties are given fair, reasonable, and equitable treatment under the law.
Smith has first-hand experience in cases along these lines, as his story is documented on shows such as Dr. Phil, The Abrams Report, and (CBS’s) The Morning Show, along with multiple local, regional, and national media outlets such as The Michael Baisden Show.
“A former girlfriend claims that I am the father (of our daughter)”, he starts. “Eleven years later, and after multiple verified DNA tests, it’s shown that I’m not the father. In fact, the mother (of our daughter) provides the name of the real father”.
After that, the case is closed, correct? Not exactly.
“My case goes to the GA Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, and as high up as the US Supreme Court (in 2002). On February 6, 2003, after multiple appeals and extensive lobbying, only then am I absolved from all future child support and all legal responsibilities”, he states.
If evidence can be proved conclusively (as in Smith’s case), why the delays? Why did it take an extended period of time for such information to be considered instead of taking eleven years to resolve the issue?
The main problem is the the laws and application of such laws. Smith notes that many states’ statutes are patterned after federal guidelines, and there are some areas of concern with them.
“Any man (single or married) can be presented with a paternity suit. There is usually (depending on the state) a 60 day period from the time the suit is filed for it to be contested. The only challenges one has is due to arrest (an induced confession or admission), material mistake of fact (where the other parent believes in their heart that the other party involved is the parent), or fraud (where the person filing the suit knowingly and willingness withheld information)”, cautions Smith. “What complicates matters is if the person (who is presumed to be the father or is led to believe he is the father) has already signed an acknowlegement of paternity prior to this discovery or research period. Even if evidence proves otherwise, the presumed father can still be held responsible”.
Smith cites a case in which such an issue is taking place, and this is even after the daugher of the accuser paid to have the paternity test administered.
“In the current case of Hari Williams vs. Cathy Tate (in California), Hari is homeless at the time he is served with a paternity suit. Even though the woman who files the suit is convicted of commiting welfare fraud, and the approved paternity test (that her daughter helps Hari obtain) proves he is not the father, the courts are currently disregarding this information; potentially, he is facing a $180,000 lawsuit for back child support”, Smith remarks.
“The greater question raised is why can’t she be held responsible and accountable when it is clear she knowingly and willingly withheld information? This constitutes fraud, but the courts and state agencies have no incentive to rectify this situation. In other words, it’s evident the other party in this case should be held responsible and accountable, but the way a number of the laws are setup and administered, other parties (in this case, women) have no incentive to tell the truth. That in an of itself shows a lack of equal accountability and personal responsibility”, Smith adds. “This can carry over into the realm of parallel dating, a situation in which a person in a relationship is dating other people without the other party’s knowledge. This too brings up the concern of equal accountability and personal responsibility in that the parallel dater can knowingly and willingly withhold information, which constitutes fraud”.
Smith’s efforts, which include legal DNA verification and testing that are state-approved, are producing some key points of emphasis in regards to equal accountability and personal responsibility. A 2005 study by the American Association of Blood Banks notes that of the nearly 350,000 men tested, nearly 100,000 are deemed as not being the parent of the child in a given paternity suit (in the state of Georgia), a nearly 1:3 ratio. As a by-product, states like Georgia (via the GA Code 19-7-54), California, and others are revisiting such laws and guidelines.
Ongoing work in this area is a never-ending battle, but one that Smith is fully commited to engaging the community and public in. As a result, nearly 80% of the people who contact him for his work are women.
“I am focused on making sure the law is applied as reasonably and equitably as possible, as there are some discrepancies in individual accountability and personal responsiblity”, Smith emphasizes. He adds that before signing any acknowledgement of paternity, the accused should immediately take a legal, state-approved DNA verification test, as an over-the-counter test does not qualify as an approved form of testing.
With an emphasis on informing the community, addressing needed legal improvements, and helping avoiding the financial, personal, and emotional hurt associated with cases of this nature, which can include non-visitation (even if the accused parent wants to provide voluntary support), Smith’s larger focus on individual and collective responsibility and accountability are standards that many recognize as being reasonable. Doing so can help address a growing area of concern that if not addressed, can readily and adversely impact our communities.