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Auburn man ordered to pay support for child that's not his

AUBURN, Maine -- A District Court judge ruled three years ago that Geoffrey Fisher no longer had to pay child support for a child that wasn't his.

But that hasn't stopped the state from revoking Fisher's driver's license and coming after him for thousands of dollars it says he owes in back payments.

Fisher, 35, said he's flabbergasted the state sent him a letter this month seeking $11,450 in child support, even though officials know that DNA tests have proven he isn't the father of the child in question.

The state's action "is crazy," said Fisher, of Auburn. "A man doesn't have much power in a situation like this."

Fisher's attorney, James Howaniec, said he and Fisher thought the matter was resolved in January 2002, when a judge ruled Fisher no longer had to pay support.

"It's ridiculous that the state is going after men proved not to be the fathers of particular children," Howaniec said.

Fisher had a brief relationship with a woman seven years ago and believed her when she got pregnant and told him he was the father. He began paying child support but fell behind over time.

In the summer of 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services took him to court because of delinquent payments. The court ordered him to pay up, and the state had his license suspended under the "deadbeat dad" law.

That fall the girl, then 3, was placed in foster care. When Fisher pushed for custody, the state ordered a paternity test, which proved he wasn't the father.

At that point, one branch of the human services department told him he could no longer see the girl because he wasn't the father, while another said he owed $10,000 and couldn't have a driver's license because he was the father.

Fisher thought the matter resolved when a judge ruled he no longer had to pay child support in January 2002.

But earlier this month, the Maine attorney general's office wrote a letter to Howaniec saying Fisher owed support payments for the time from the child's birth until she reached 3 years old, when tests proved Fisher was not the father.

State officials said that Fisher's problems have resurfaced because he failed to file a court motion three years ago that would have relieved him or any financial responsibilities for the child.

Because of that, Fisher is regarded as the legal father and responsible for child support, said Michael Norton, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We'll work with him as best we can, but everything is controlled by court orders," Norton said.

Howaniec said he is negotiating with the state and has filed the motion to relieve Fisher of parental responsibilities. But he said Fisher could still be held responsible for past child support.

As for Fisher, he thinks it's pretty "cruddy" what the state's doing.

"It was hard enough finding out this kid is not yours," he said. "It's like the state is rubbing salt in the wound."

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Information from: Lewiston Sun Journal, http://www.sunjournal.com


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