Child support laws are often controversial, but most would object to an old law that has forced a Michigan man to pay support to his ex-wife for a baby conceived after the couple split — despite the objection of the child’s biological father.
Grand Rapids resident Joseph Chmelar has two sons and recently divorced their mom. But the dad of two got a bit of a shock when he learned that his soon to be ex wife had, during their estrangement, given birth to a third child — one he’d soon be ordered to support, despite the fact that everyone involved admitted the child was not that of Chmelar.
Divorces can take a year or more to “process,” and many soon to be divorced people go on to become involved in new relationships before the legal mumbo jumbo is complete. But Chmelar says the child support shock followed the surprise arrival of a new baby for his ex, explaining that his kids accidentally broke the news:
“They got in the car and they were bouncing up and down and telling me that mom has a new baby and I said, ‘Is she baby-sitting? Is she looking after someone?’ ”
But the child support shocker was a bigger one, as the pair’s divorce was not yet final. Chmelar received a letter in the mail from child support enforcement, demanding $8,500 in back support and medical expenses for the new baby — despite the fact that the child even had a biological dad who wished to step up and care for him.
“I thought, ‘My God, this is hilarious.’ It’s Father’s Day weekend and here’s the biggest joke that I think I’ve ever had played on me transpiring right now.”
WOOD-TV profiled Chmelar and his plight in being ordered to pay child support for another man’s baby, but the piece was not solely about loosening child support laws.
Some fathers say that they’re hurt by the law just as much — because they are denied the ability to officially provide for their children. It’s unclear from the report whether Rob Recknagel is linked to Chmelar’s situation, but the site explains that Recknagel believed the woman he got involved with was no longer married.
Before she gave birth to their child, she emailed him and said she planned to raise Recknagel’s baby with her husband, and he explains that the inability to see or support his son keeps him up at night:
“Every single day that goes by that I don’t get to see him, it just gets tougher. I don’t know what he looks like,… I’m standing here saying, ‘I want my son in my life. I want to pay child support… Lets sign the proper documents and just do that.”
Some lawmakers in Michigan say the situation forcing the man to pay child support for another man’s baby is “outrageous,” and Chmelar has since been “cleared” of financial responsibility for the baby that is not biologically his.