Bradley Amendment - Controversy


The Amendment has been a controversial law and has resulted in several notorious examples:

  • Bobby Sherrill, a Lockheed employee in Kuwait from North Carolina, was captured by Iraqis and spent nearly five months as an Iraqi hostage. Sherrill was arrested the night after his release for not paying $1,425 in child support while he was a hostage.
  • Clarence Brandley, a Texas high school janitor, was wrongly convicted in 1980 of murder. After spending many years in prison and on death row, he was released in 1990 and he then sued the state of Texas for wrongful imprisonment in 1993. The state then responded with a bill for nearly $50,000 in child support that had not been paid while in prison. Dianna Thompson of The American Coalition of Fathers and Children told the Houston Chronicle that federal law makes it illegal for states to forgive child support payments regardless of circumstance. Michael McCormick, of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children said, concerning child support payments, "I'm not aware of any state where it says a wrongly convicted individual is relieved of their obligation." Despite paying child support every month since his release via wage garnishment, Brandley's child support total reached $73,000 in 2003, when a judge reduced his total to $22,000; however, this amount is still more than triple the $7,000 in back child support Brandley owed at the time of his arrest in 1980. Recently, Brandley lost his job in the economic downturn in 2008; he has since lost his car and house as the child support bills and interest keep coming.
  • Taron James, a U.S. Navy veteran from California, was forced to continue to pay child support until 2006, even after the child was demonstrated by DNA test in 2001 to be not his; James paid $12,000 in such payments. A California District Court of Appeal eventually set aside the paternity judgment against James in 2006, but the same court denied James' request to have his child support payments reimbursed.
  • A Virginia man required to pay retroactive child support even though DNA tests proved that he could not have been the father.

As of 2004, the Bradley Amendment was being challenged as unconstitutional and was the subject of a repeal effort. As of February 2006 the court case has been dismissed.

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