Child support activist jailed in Ohio for failing to pay alimony

CNN News
April 28, 2000
Web posted at: 10:50 AM EDT (1450 GMT)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A man who has campaigned and testified before lawmakers in his efforts to change Ohio's child support laws has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for failing to pay alimony to his ex-wife.

Judge William Chinnock on Thursday ordered that Dennis Caron be jailed on criminal contempt charges for refusing to abide by a court order to pay support.

Caron, 43, has campaigned for change in Ohio's child support law after finding out after his divorce in 1992 that he is not the father of a boy, now 10, being raised by his ex-wife.

Caron says he has DNA evidence proving he is not the child's biological father, and he should not have to pay. But because a judge determined Caron to be the father during his divorce hearings, he was ordered to pay monthly child support of $530.

Acting as his own lawyer, Caron has filed hundreds of motions and has challenged different judges about his case in order to get a paternity hearing.

He stopped making child support payments in 1997 but set aside $530 each month and took out a bond against his home in case he lost and had to pay up.

He and his ex-wife on Tuesday reached an agreement in which she agreed to drop the contempt charge after Caron paid $19,725 to the Franklin County Child Support Enforcement Agency.

But the judge said the agreement doesn't satisfy the legitimate interests of the child and the state. He said Caron's ex-wife has been beleaguered by years of litigation, with a court docket showing more than 1,000 entries.

Chinnock said he jailed Caron to send a message to all fathers who refuse to abide by court orders to support their children.

"The father's claim of disestablishment of paternity will be ruled on in a fair and objective manner, but until it is finally decided by the courts, he is fully expected to abide by all court orders, including paying child support," Chinnock wrote in his decision.

Andrea Yagoda, a lawyer who represents Caron's ex-wife Gina Manfresca, refused comment on the case Thursday.

Caron testified before the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee on February 2 in support of a bill that would allow men to stop paying child support and sue to recover past payments if DNA testing proves they are not the father. The bill, which already has passed the House, remains before the Senate committee.

Ohio law lets a man ask a judge to correct a paternity ruling within a year. But the current law does not allow men who find out after a year to end support payments even with DNA testing.

Copyright 2000, Associated Press.