By Efar Veronique
A desperate man was saddled by the court with an enormous child support payment and child support arrearage, that he couldn’t afford to pay, and for a child that was not even his. He was worried that he would lose his license, lose his job, and lose his liberty.
He called attorney Jeffery M. Leving for help. The caller told Leving that he mistakenly signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity for the minor child, back in 2006 when the girl was born. A voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, or “VAP,” is a document typically signed by the biological father and mother, in which the man acknowledges he is the father of the child. However, this man later learned that his relationship with the mother was not exclusive. He requested a DNA test with the mother, and discovered that he was not, in fact, the father of the child. The mother then indicated to him that she would correct the matter. She didn’t.
Nothing happened for the following 9 years, and this man believed the matter had been resolved, trusting the mother. However, recently and unexpectedly, he was prosecuted and served with a Petition for Child Support and summons to appear in court for child support, regarding the same minor child. He frantically filed a motion on his own without a lawyer, to deny fatherhood of the child because of the genetic test, but the court still entered a default judgment against him, and required him to pay current child support and a huge arrearage. He couldn’t pay these large amounts of money and, eventually, he did lose his driver’s license, which imperiled his job. Next, his liberty hung in the balance.
This man started to think there was no way out of his predicament. Luckily, however, he turned to Leving for help.
To win this case, Leving had to design a strategy to vacate the VAP, especially this one that is 15 years old. The legal strategy was to seek to vacate the VAP as a judgment of the court. “This is very difficult to do, because under Illinois law, a VAP can only be vacated on the grounds of duress, fraud, or mutual mistake — which can be extremely difficult to prove,” said attorney Maureen Gorman.
Leving put together a top notch team of litigators from his firm to fight for this client who had been wronged. Leving’s Detective Wayne Halick, who previously worked successfully on cases just like this one, said that “requiring a man to pay child support for another man’s child is, plain and simple, wrong.”
Under the facts of this case, Leving asserted the VAP should be vacated on the grounds of mutual mistake. A Petition to Vacate the VAP, arguing that the man and the mother signed the VAP because they mistakenly believed that he was the father, was drafted.
A hearing on the matter was scheduled. On the date of the hearing, the judge granted Leving’s client’s Petition to Vacate on the spot without an evidentiary hearing. The judge entered an order granting all the relief the man requested, including vacating the VAP, vacating all orders entered subsequent to the VAP, vacating the current child support order and all child support arrearages, and directing the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services to adjust its records to show zero dollars in arrearages. Leving’s client can now request reinstatement of his driver’s license, which will make his employment more secure and, best of all, no jail time for him.
Leving said that “this was an important victory, modified for broadcast. If this man had not come to see me, it is very likely he would have been mandated to pay child support for many, many years, would have irrevocably lost his job because he could no longer drive, and could have even ended up in jail, all for not paying child support for another man’s child.” Now Leving’s client no longer has to fear being unemployed, without a driver’s license, and going to jail. “I was very pleased that justice was done for this good man, who had done nothing wrong” said Leving.
About the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving Ltd.
Matrimonial attorney Jeffery M. Leving has dedicated his career to safeguarding children and reuniting them with their separated and divorced fathers. He is a pioneer in the Fathers’ Rights movement and founded the Fatherhood Educational Institute, a 501(c)(3) charity which seeks to eliminate father absence.
Leving has written several acclaimed books, including Fathers’ Rights and How to be a Good Divorced Dad, the latter of which was praised by President Obama and by Cardinal Francis E. George, then the archbishop of Chicago. The Illinois House of Representatives honored Leving “for his work in safeguarding the rights of fathers and protecting the welfare of children and families in this State.”