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