Written by attorney Peter Christopher Lomtevas

DSS Domestic Violence Shelter Refund – The Silent Fraud

A mother has had enough of her lover so she terminates the relationship by going to a battered women’s shelter with the couple’s child to announce she is being violenced by her lover. The Lover had no inkling the mother would do this so he continued to work and reside at home with mother missing. Some months later, mother contacts her lover to announce she is in a “shelter" and that the lover can see his child on weekends. The lover drove to the shelter to visit with his child. The lover gave money to the mother. After several months, the mother found other digs and took up residence there. The local department of social services now serves a child support petition upon the lover for a refund of shelter expenses and allowances. Here comes the fraud: the lover has to pay back cash to the servicing county for the mother’s stay at the shelter in the guise of a child support payment. The typical state’s social services law defines the obligation of the relative or the parent of a child to be liable for any public assistance paid by the state. The typical statute reads as such: [T]he spouse or parent of a recipient of public assistance or care or of a person liable to become in need thereof shall, if of sufficient ability, be responsible for the support of such person, provided that a parent shall be responsible only for the support of a child under the age of twenty-one years. What this law fails to define is the eligibility for public assistance. The mother simply appears at the shelter and “qualifies" for a substantial shelter allowance. There may be no orders of filiation on file and the mother can be married to someone else at the time of conception. Also, in the area of domestic violence, no inquiry is made of the lover what he did if anything to “violence" the mother. From the lover’s point of view, the mother simply disappeared with his child. From the mother’s point of view, she can cool her heals in a “shelter" to make further plans of how to escape perhaps to a new relationship with a new lover. If the mother is an illegal alien, she can ramp up her allegations and even have the child involuntarily admitted in a pediatric psychiatric ward and obtain a diagnosis for the child of PTSD. So the mother can tap into a welfare apparatus on the mere assertion she was “violenced" by her lover. Social services laws of the various states pin the financial liability upon the lover without inquiry. He now has to appear in child support court because the child benefited from the shelter and the various other allowances mother received. The typical statute reads: The petition for support appears as any other child support petition. The liability imposed by this section shall be for the benefit of the public welfare district concerned. The local welfare administration appears as the petitioner. The statute reads: Powers of public welfare officials to ... to compel any person liable by law for support to contribute to the support of any person cared for at public expense. The only issue the court will entertain is the income of the lover. He is presumed automatically liable for the welfare provided to the mother. The court will sustain all county objections as to relevance if the father is asked to describe what he knew of what the mother was doing. The county will put on the stand a records keeper who will come to court with no records. The keeper will testify as to the total sum of money the shelter was worth and the value of any allowances paid to the mother off of the top of the keeper’s head. The keeper will not disclose any of these dollar values ahead of trial. There is no inquiry as to the validity of the sheltering of the mother and no inquiry as to whether she qualified. There will be no records as to when she was admitted and when she left. The county will release the dates of sheltering verbally but they will mislead as to the monthly dollar value actually paid. This is intended to minimize the effort the lover places in his defense. Further, the county attorney helps mask what is going on here by telling the court she settled the dollar value owed with the lover’s counsel when in fact no such agreement ever took place. This is intended to fool the lover into believing the law requires him to support his child when in fact the mother used the system to escape and hide the child for further follow on planning. The lover may testify that he found out about the shelter months after admission. That does not matter. The lover may testify he gave money to the mother while she was in the shelter but his verbal assertions are deemed not credible (while the verbal assertions of the records keeper are deemed by the court to be credible). No inquiry is made as to the history of the couple. They may have been battling for the child for years or not. The mother may have stumbled upon the domestic violence apparatus running in the local area and finally got it right as to how to remove the child and get shelter to hatch her subsequent plan. The mother could even be married to someone else at the time and that does not factor into the matter. The court will quote to the child support standards act and recite the father’s obligation to support his child. However, the actual facts will be precluded and an order of support will follow. So the fraud is that the lover must be ready to maintain two households for his girlfriend mother: one at his place and a second at the shelter. The mother is free to move between the two on the mere allegation of “violence" and the man is chargeable for the mother’s support under the guise of "child support". This is a silent fraud because the man is never informed that this is going on. Even the astute lawyer will not know unless the word “domestic violence shelter" or “battered woman’s shelter" is used at some point. Even then, the astute lawyer has no ability to challenge the sheltering of the woman because too much time may have already passed. The man’s pay applicable to any refund for shelter costs covers the dates of admission to release no matter his other financial obligations at the time. At trial, the county attorney will say that an agreement was reached between counsel when in fact no agreement was reached at all. Trial will include no records and will omit the mother and her testimony. All the county lawyer’s objections will be sustained and the father’s lawyer’s objections will be overruled. To fathers: when you hear the word “shelter", it is already too late. You must be prepared to pay whatever the charges the welfare agency in your county dreams up. You will not know the charges until the day of trial and your pay during that time of sheltering will be used to compute the payback amount. You’ll be hit with a “child support" order subjecting you to state collection action to include loss of licensure. Your lawyer will be maneuvered into agreeing on a payback amount and may turn against you in negotiations to coerce you to agree to the amount. Domestic violence allegations can lead you to seek an order of visitation which will yield an initial award of custody on consent to the absconding mother. The father, the tax payer and the child lose all around.

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