Trending in the news right now is a story of the once young-and-free Nick Olivas who claims that when he was 14, he had an inappropriate affair with a 20 year-old woman. Though the news headlines say, ‘Rape Victim Forced to Pay Child Support’, a real eye-catcher, the story is much more complex.
In 2012, a woman applied for public assistance and noted that Nick Olivas was the father of her 10 year-old daughter. This, of course, led to the State of Arizona ordering he pay child support – current and 10 years in delinquent payments – a total of $15,000, plus money for birth expense reimbursement and 10% interest. That’s quite a judgment. Especially for a college grad working as a medical assistant.
Reports claim that Mr. Olivas is excited to be a part of his daughter’s life and has no problem paying current child support. His contention is with the back payments when he “didn’t know his daughter existed.”
No doubt that this is a messy, sticky case. While the tag line is great for sensationalizing, the sad reality is this: Each of these cases have their own set of circumstances that change what a reasonable outcome should be. We also can’t base decisions on possible crimes that may have happened. Certainly in this case, with a tangible child, a paternity test, and simple math, we can deduce that Mr. Olivas is, in fact, the father and was not of the age of consent (15, in Arizona) when these events occurred. But Mr. Olivas never pressed charges or even filed a report. So while it is evident that a crime was committed, there is no legal system track record to prove it.
Every time a case cycles through the system, we set a precedent. In 1993, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a 13-year old boy who got his 17-year-old girlfriend pregnant was liable for child support payments even though he was not of the age of consent. In California, the same thing happened with a 15-year-old and a 34-year-old despite the fact that the woman was convicted of statutory rape.
In a changing culture of society – which is clearly having negative impacts on everyone involved– we are now dealing with men who go years completely unaware they have a child and the system eventually catches up with them. By unaware, I mean the mother admits she did not share the information with the father nor did she make a diligent effort to go through the court system to track him down and go through the proper channels.
Age issues aside, this also gets into the weeds of ‘responsible sexual activity’ and what is reasonable responsibility for both parties. Is it on the woman to inform the father immediately? Or just sometime before birth? Or within a year of birth? Should the man be held responsible for ‘not following up’ to see if he impregnated a woman from a one-night-stand? Or do we sit idly and wait for the system to catch up to everyone? Because it will. More often than not, a woman in this situation will be forced onto some type of public assistance and the number of people affected by situation will continue to grow – welfare benefits, the court system to ensure payment, and so on.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we cannot legislate morality but we our society is nurturing a culture that is sucking the life out of just about every government program we have in place.