Posted Sep 08, 2014 06:15 am CDT
Updated: An Arizona man who had sex with a 20-year-old woman when he was only 14 was, according to state law, a statutory rape victim.
He is also a father, he learned eight years later, and the state wants him to pay child support. The Arizona Republic has a story, and USA Today has an opinion column saying the case illustrates a legal double standard.
“When a state government finds out a 14-year-old girl is a statutory rape victim of a 20-year-old man, the common reaction would be to file criminal charges to put the predator in jail,” the USA Today column says. “But for male victims, child support laws turn state governments into the allies of abusers instead of advocates for the victims.”
Nick Olivas, now a 24-year-old medical assistant, says he didn’t know he could press charges against the 20-year-old woman, and he didn’t know he was a father until two years ago, according to the Arizona Republic story. The Phoenix man ignored the legal papers from the state demanding child support. The state has since seized money from his bank account and garnished his wages. He says he owes about $15,000 in back child support and medical bills, along with 10 percent interest.
According to the Arizona Republic, courts in California and Kansas have said states have the right to seek child support from the victims of statutory rape. In both cases, the state acted after the mothers sought public assistance.
Before a custodial parent may seek public assistance through Arizona’s welfare program, they are required by state law to pursue child support, reports the Arizona Republic. “The child-support payments then are used to help reimburse the state for assistance payments.”
The USA Today column cites a 2011 Georgia Law Review article that says child-support law is based on the idea that child support is in the best interests of the child, even when there is wrongful conduct by the mother.
“Child support is essentially a form of strict liability,” says the law review article, “with the justification being that the child is an innocent party, and, therefore, it is the child’s interests and welfare that the court must look to in adjudicating support.” The author is University of Tennessee law professor Michael Higdon.
Arizona doesn’t seek child support when the parent seeking the money has been convicted of sexual assault with a minor or sexual assault, the Arizona Republic says. But its policy is to seek child support from those in Olivas’ situation.
Olivas tells the Arizona Republic he’s willing to pay future child support, but he doesn’t think the state should be able to charge him child support for the years he was a juvenile or when he didn’t know he was a father. And he would like to see his daughter.
“I lost my mom at a young age. I know what it’s like to only have one parent,” he said. “I can’t leave her out there. She deserves a dad.”
Updated on Sept. 12 to explain the child-support requirement in Arizona’s public-assistance programs.