DETROIT, MI – One man says he got the shock of his life during a traffic stop in Detroit in the early 1990s. The officer told him that he was a deadbeat dad, and that he was under arrest. But, he didn’t have children.
WXYZ reports Carnell Alexander became a dad by default after his ex listed him as father when applying for welfare benefits. According to documents filed with the court, a process server claimed to have given Mr. Alexander, in person, a notice of hearing at a house he once lived at. But that wasn’t possible. He wasn’t at that house on the date he was allegedly served because he was incarcerated for a crime he committed as a young man.
On Tuesday, he went to the Third Judicial Circuit Court, hoping a judge would fix it.
However, his story inspired a different kind of outrage.
Judge Kathleen McCarthy says she’s outraged that for two decades Mr. Alexander failed to take this matter seriously. She described how he had been to court more than a dozen times over the years. Judge McCarthy ruled that he should have filed a motion to set aside the acknowledgement of parentage long ago. “That motion must be filed within 3 years after the child’s birth, or within one year after the order of filiation is entered. The defendant has failed to timely file this motion setting aside the acknowledgement of parentage,” said Judge McCarthy.
Because this case is more than two and a half decades old, she ruled that he must pay.
Alexander says he did not file that motion because he learned he was allegedly a father after being released from prison and he did not have an income or savings at the time. He says he only had an eighth grade education and wasn’t able to find a lawyer to help him.
He says he did make sure Friend of the Court workers and judges on the case knew he was not this child’s father, had never been in the child’s life, and didn’t want to be held responsible. “Every court appearance that she said I made, I made it clear to them I was not the father of this child.”
Carnell says when he learned of the case against him, the court gave him an old address for the mother who claimed he had fathered a child. He went there hoping to get a DNA test to prove his story. She didn’t live there.
At that point he says the court told him it could not help him in any other way to locate the mother who said he was the father.
His current attorney Cherika Harris believes that he should have been helped. “To continue to harass and burden him to pay for a child that is not his, when they know who the real father is now, I don’t understand this.”
The real father has been in the life of the now adult child, unlike Carnell.
Although the court did not go as she hoped on Tuesday, and he still owes more than $30,000 in child support, she says she will file other motions.
Carnell says he understands he may owe money according to the fine print of the law, but he will never believe it is right.
“The law is not going to fit into everybody’s situation.” Why don’t they use common sense?,” said Alexander.
Seven Action News has reached out to Friend of the Court as it has covered this case. Officials have said they cannot provide interviews. They did make Carnell’s file containing summaries of what happened in court available. We have based our reporting on the facts provided in those documents and interviews with others involved.
For more on this story visit wxyz.com.