Trapped in “The Ethics Zone”

Rod Serling is your guest host for this episode.

We are traveling in a realm beyond time and space, to a dimension where right and wrong are vague and indistinguishable. Witness the strange case of Roy Thomas, a Houston man trapped in a hostile maelstrom of illogical laws and imaginary daughters. He is a victim of an ethics deficit, nourished by greed and desperation, the kind that sometimes lurks in the dark corners of….

The Ethics Zone!

Submitted for your consideration, the saga of Roy Thomas, who has been forced to pay child support for a daughter he supposedly fathered  more than two decades ago, though he always maintained that the child wasn’t his. The state has been taking the money out of his paychecks, and he is still behind, owing $52,000 in back payments and interest. Now Roy and the 25-year-old woman whose mother identified Roy as her father in 1986 have had her DNA tested, and Roy was right: they are not related. More good news: Texas has finally adopted a law that relieves men of responsibility for paternity support for children that tests prove they did not father.

The law, however, is not retroactive. Roy still owes back child support to the woman’s mother, even though he should never have had to pay a cent.

I can understand the reasons a state legislature might decide not to open the door to hundreds of fathers seeking proof that they are owed refunds on their paternity payments, and the resulting lawsuits and family disruptions, though I wouldn’t expect Roy Thomas to be so understanding. Why, however, would the woman who wrongly said he was the mother of a child she had with another man still claim the back payments from him?

She is doing it only because the law says she can, presumably, and she wants the money. It is undeniably wrong and unfair. The responsible and fair thing to do would be to waive all past payments. In fact, the ethical conduct would for her to pay Roy back for all of his child support for the child that wasn’t his. That, however, is not going to happen. Roy, in short, is screwed.

Roy Thomas is the hapless victim of a false accusation, crushed by a brutal law that will allow the individual at fault not only to benefit as a result, but to suffer no negative consequences at all for her actions. When law and happenstance collide to create injustice, only intervention by someone with courage and principle can set things right. Unfortunately, in the harsh dimension that has ensnared Roy Thomas, there is no such hero, no such rescue. He is cursed to pay paternity for the child he did not father, to the mother who ensnared him, through the state that knows the truth but does not care. He is little more than roadkill on the merciless road to a realm where right and wrong too often have no meaning…in

The Ethics Zone!

17 thoughts on “Trapped in “The Ethics Zone”

  1. Can the Attorney General come in and wave his magic un-fuck-this wand and stop this madness, or is that out of his hands?

      • And HER name hasn’t been revealed by the media, I’m SURE, so there’s no possibility shaming her into letting this poor sap off the hook?

        Someone get Anon on the case!

  2. Why, however, would the woman who wrongly said he was the mother of a child she had with another man still claim the back payments from him?

    You’re assuming something that isn’t established in the article. In many states, the custodial parent — if they’ve ever been supported by welfare — isn’t the party going after child support. It’s possible that she doesn’t have the option of not claiming the back payments, because the party pursuing the claim is the state government, not the mother.

    • I’m sure the state is seeking the money, but she doesn’t have to accept it. Child support isn’t automatic; a court has to approve a legal agreement. Lots of mothers waive child support, She could too. He can’t get a judge to end it, but she could.She doesn’t want to.

      Yes, if the state paid her welfare because of the absence of his child support and she can’t pay the state back, then the state is going after the money. There’s nothing in the accounts to suggest that, but if true, she still should take on the obligation. I have no idea how the state Welfare rules work in such situations.

      Nevertheless, the mother is ethically, if not legally, accountable for this mess. At best, she fingered the wrong man. At worst, she picked the guy among her many sex partners who was most willing and able to pay, and abused him. The technicalities don’t change her culpability.

  3. Seneca, a first-century Roman philosopher and dramatist (he wrote a Latin adaptation of MEDEA), tells the story of “Piso’s justice”. Piso, a draconian judge, once condemned a man on circustantial evidence for murder. Just before the condemned man’s execution, the supposedly murdered man reported his existence to a centurion. The centurion at once brought the “victim” to Piso, who promptly ordered all three men put to death. The condemned man was executed because he had been sentenced; the centurion was executed for leaving his post of duty; and the man supposed to have been murdered was executed for causing the death of two innocent men.

    Fiat justitia ruat coelum.

    • I agree with the sentiment….but you’d be surprised how many people now know nothing about the Twilight Zone. I use it, liike Bizarro World, because it still the best metaphor I know of for certain things, and if it helps keep Rod Serling’s memory alive, I’ll accept the cliche criticism and regard it as worth the price.
      (My ring tone is the Twilight Zone Theme. You should see people jump when it rings in a public place…)

  4. I was actually in an FBI industrial called “The Ethics Zone” a few years ago. It had scenarios reminding FBI folks how to avoid conflicts of interest, etc. I can lend you my copy if you’d like- you’d love it. Including a Rod Serling impersonator and other actors you probably know… 🙂

    • My alter-ego in business ethics programs, Captain Compliance, was born in a program I created—also a Twilight Zone parody—called “the Compliance Zone.” That program and its various versions made me about $60,000 before it ran its course. Neil can call it a cliche–I call it a “cash cow.” Good program, too.

  5. Is it safe to assume that this “fick” appeared in court, named the father , and committed perjury? What then does she owe the poor NON-father? Is perjury not a federal offense? Even in family court?

    And what might she owe him? X numbers of years at X dollars a year times whatever the court deems an appropriate percentage?

    Not to mention (of course) that this poor schmuck was force to feel some connection to a child that he did, in fact, NOT father.

    How many times have we heard now about people unjustly convicted of a crime and then received literally millions in damages because DNA technology proved the caese? I know this isn’t exactly the same situation, but there HAS to be a legal remedy.,

    Roy Thomas needs a greedy lawyer: he clearly won’t get his 40 miliion from he lying, perjuring mother, then get it from the Court or Child Services — the agencies who dd this man wrong.

    DNA has been used in 20-year-old cases which have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the person convicted DIDN’T DO IT! Use it now,get the proto-father off the hook, identify the real father, then proceed from there

    Even if the proto-father doesn’t get him money back from the state, at the very least that child should be removed from the care of her lying, perjuring mother Has she ever told her child who her real father was?

    We are increasingly a nation of slimebags — and this proves it. Not just people. but the judiciary as well.

  6. Why does he simply not refuse to pay?

    To quote the Declaration of Independence, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”

    This certainly applies to Roy Thomas. He would be well justified to “dissolve the political bands” which have connected him with the state that did this injustice, and justified to take whatever is the most effective means needed to accomplish this.

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