Everyone, including the child’s mother, acknowledges that Detroit’s Carnell Alexander is not the father of a child born in 1987. (At the time, the mother named him in court papers, but acknowledges today that he is not the child’s father. )
Yet the state of Michigan says that Alexander is liable, even though he only found out that he was in arrears for child support for a child he never fathered when he was pulled over for a traffic stop in the 90’s. He couldn’t answer papers sent to him because he was in jail at the time, which is corroborated by state records.
Alexander explained to the judge and court again and again his situation. He says in hindsight, he didn’t understand the formal legal steps necessary to make things right.
Eventually he, by chance, ran into someone he knew would know where the woman was, and got a DNA test. It proved what he had been saying all along: the child he had never met was not his.
The mother had realized that, and the real father was in the child’s life. Alexander took this information to court. The judge was unmoved.
“Case closed. I gotta pay for the baby,” said Alexander.
The court focused on a summons tied to the paternity case in the late 1980’s. The state sent a process server to Alexander’s dad’s house in Highland Park to let him know about the paternity case. The process server turned a document into the court saying Alexander was delivered the summons, but he refused to sign the summons.
“I wasn’t there. I couldn’t refuse to sign,” said Alexander.
7 Action News checked his story with the Michigan Department of Corrections. Their records confirm Alexander’s story – he did not receive that order at a home in Highland Park. He was in prison for a crime he committed as a young man.
“I had no knowledge that I had a child support case against me,” he says.
The mother, struggling at the time and unsure of who the father was, is apologetic about the mixup. She too, had no idea it would impact Alexander’s life as it has. She asked for, and was granted forgiveness for Alexander’s debt to her, but the state still says he owes $30,000.
He will have to go through the paperwork to prove he does not owe the debt, something Alexander says shouldn’t be this difficult, especially as he was never proven the child’s father in the first place.
“We know this is not my child, so let’s do what we need to do, what’s right,” said Alexander.