“Non-dad” cleared of child-support obligations

A South Georgia judge has relieved Frank Hatley from paying $10,000 in past-due child support for a son that isn't his.

In an order issued last week, Cook County Superior Court Judge Dane Perkins, who jailed Hatley for 13 months until his release in July, allowed the state Office of Child Support Services to close its case against the “deadbeat dad” who had no children.

Hatley sat in jail for past-due child support, even though Perkins and a state attorney knew Hatley was not the child’s father.

In 1989, Hatley was ordered to reimburse the state for the cost of public assistance for a son Hatley had been told and believed was his. But in 2000, DNA tests proved he was not the father.

Even so, he was found in contempt in June 2008 for being in arrears for $10,263 in child-support obligations. He sat in jail until a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta filed a motion for his release.

Last week, in an order prepared by the state Attorney General’s Office, Perkins found that Hatley “is no longer responsible for paying any amount of child support.”

Sarah Geraghty, Hatley’s lawyer, expressed satisfaction the case has been resolved.

“But more state oversight is needed to prevent future injustices” by the state child support services office in Nashville, Ga., she said. The office “prioritizes money collection over fairness and that needs to change.”

In the wake of revelations about Hatley’s predicament, the state Department of Human Services began reviewing child-support cases to make sure no one else is in a similar position. The agency also said it will propose legislation next year to make sure what happened to Hatley will not happen again.