Man Became Homeless Because of Child Support Payments (Full Episode) | Paternity Court

Ms. Dennis, I requested
that you meet me
in my chambers because after I read
your court file, I was truly touched
by what I read. I realize
that you’ve been
searching for your father since you were 12 years old. Yes, ma’am. The man you believe
is your father. Mmm-hmm. But you have
never seen him. Nope. You have never
spoken to him. You have never
heard his voice? Not one time. And so today will be
the very first day
you will do that and I wanted to make sure
you were okay
and you were prepared. I’m nervous, I really am, because all I’ve known of him
is these pictures
that I’ve had my entire life. And these are? These are pictures
of my mother and himat their wedding.So you’ve had these pictures
your whole life,
but you have not
had your biological father.
Not one bit.But I just wanted to make sure
you were aware of the stakes, and the fact that this can be
in a very emotional time. Thank you. (SNIFFS) All right. Jerome, please escort
Ms. Dennis to the courtroom. Go ahead and go this way. All right. Please be seated. Good morning,
Your Honor. Good morning. This is the case
ofDennis v. Dennis.Thank you, Jerome. Good day, everyone. ALL: Good day. Ms. Dennis, today will be
the very first day you’ve ever laid eyes
on the man
you’ve known to be your father. Yes, ma’am. And I just want
to make clear that you understand
that he denies that he is
your biological father. (AUDIENCE MUTTERING) Absolutely. JUDGE LAKE: All right. Jerome, at this time I’d ask
that you please
escort Mr. Dennis into the courtroom, so we can
begin the proceedings. Yes. MR. DENNIS: Good morning, sir. Go right up here, on the left-hand side. Right. Good morning, Your Honor. Good morning, sir,
thank you for joining us. Ms. Dennis, I’d like
to start with you. Yes, ma’am. You have been in search
of your biological father for close to 23 years? Yes, ma’am. And you truly believe
that Mr. Dennis, who stands here
at the defendant podium, is your biological father? Correct. Tell me what you learned
and why you believe
this to be true. Well, I’ve had pictures
my entire life, I’ve been looking at them
since I was very little. I feel that I look
exactly like him. I have his nose,
his cheekbones, his eyes… My mother says that I look
just like his mother
when she was younger. Um, you know,
I know when they got married, when they split up, I know
for a fact that my mother
was not with anybody else during the time
that they were together. Why wasn’t
your biological father
in your life? What were you told? I was told
that he actually
left my mother when she was six weeks
pregnant with me. (AUDIENCE MURMURING) Wrong, wrong, wrong… Mr. Dennis, you say
that’s wrong. Yes, ma’am. Please tell the court
what your position is. My position, here,
right now, today, is to give her closure, and myself closure, being the father
or not being the father, which to be…
I believe I’m not, because when me
and her mother married, I was a truck driver
at the time. And on Memorial Day weekend,
I was down in Florida, I called her phone. She’s out on the lake,
in the middle of the night,
by herself on an antique wooden boat
with her ex-boyfriend… (AUDIENCE MURMURING) …while her children
are up on the bank. And so you believe,
your wife at the time was cheating? Yes, ma’am. While you were on runs
as a truck driver? Yes, ma’am. Trying to make a living
for her and my family. How soon after that did you find out
her mother was pregnant? Uh, when I got back
from Florida, we split up
because of that, I moved to Arkansas,
she started
the divorce proceedings. And then I got
a letter in the mail,stating that the proceedings
had stopped
due to her pregnancy.
So, then they paused
the divorce proceedings
because she was pregnant? Until after the child
was born. I have requested
to see the child, but I was living
in a different state. But it would have been
every two weeks, two hours
supervised visitation. And so, you have never
seen Ms. Dennis in person? No, ma’am, not till today. This young woman
who has believed,
her entire life that you’re
her biological father, you were married
to her mother. Yes, ma’am. You have never
laid eyes on her? Never have. Until this day,
this moment? Yes, ma’am. (AUDIENCE MUTTERING) WOMAN: Wow. I have requested
from her mother, and I have proof
or DNA tests,
and everything else that I have been denied
by courts, from her mother
and everybody else. Jerome, will you please
hand me Mr. Dennis’ evidence? What is this, sir? That is proof
of the DNA request that I have requested
from the courts. But with her mother denying,
I could not get a DNA test. And so, Ms. Dennis,
when did you learn
of all of this? I heard the story,
the full story, finally, when I was about seven
or eight years old. Uh, I hate to say this
and I hate to be rude
to anybody, but your mother
has misled you
on a lot of things while you were
growing up. Well, on that note, I want to make sure
we do hear
the other side of the story. So, Ms. Dennis,
your mother
could not join us today? Mmm-hmm. But she was able
to join us by phone, so I have her here,
on the line. MS. DENNIS: All right. Ms. Merau, are you here?
Can you hear me? MERAU:I am and I can.Ms. Merau,
you understand that Mr. Dennis
alleges at that time that you were
in a situation on a boat with another man,
an ex-boyfriend which led him to believe
that Ms. Dennis would not, could not be
his biological daughter. Can you please tell the court
how you remember
this situation? MERAU:Oh, of course.As I recall
this situation,
it was not
after we were married
that I went on a boat
with a friend.
MR. DENNIS: Yes, it was.And my children were there.On the bank.In fact, he let
my daughter drive the boat.
And he’s
a good friend of mine.
She was dating him
at the time we met.He was letting us see his boatafter he had restored it.Mr. Dennis says
that you cheated
with this man… She is telling a fable story. …which led to you
becoming pregnant. She is telling
a fable story.No, I never had
a sexual relationship
with anyone.
the man at the time, when I met her…We were, and we dated
for a short period of time.
…when I was working
as a barback
and doorman, her and her friend
came in the bar.We dated
for a short
period of time
before I met
Steve Dennis.
After I met Steve Dennis,
we never dated.
See? She says she had no relationships
with him whatsoever. He was just a friend.I did not have
a sexual relationship.
He was just a friend.Well, you did say, Ms. Merau,
“He was just a friend.” So, the truth is,
is you used to date him
romantically. Before you met Mr. Dennis.Yes, for a short
period of time.
Okay.For a short
period of time.
(AUDIENCE CHUCKLING) All right, well that’s not
what your earlier testimony…Well……alluded to,
but it is your testimony and your contention
that you did not have…Mmm-hmm.…sexual relations
with this person while you were married
to Mr. Dennis.Absolutely. I never had
sexual relations with anyone
but the man
I was married to.
(SCOFFS) Ms. Dennis, have you ever heard
anything about this other man? That there would be
another possibility of someone that could be
your biological dad? I know the man,
I’ve met the man,
but I don’t… No. (CHUCKLES) I don’t think so. So, you know him
and you’ve met him. Yes. Ms. Dennis, I want you
to take a moment and I want you
to tell Mr. Dennis
about your search for him.Tell him about the hurt.It’s 23 years
of wondering why. Why… Why doesn’t
my father want me? Why doesn’t my father care?
Why isn’t my father
trying to find me? I tried for years,
since I was
about 12 years old, to contact your family. They’ve read and received
my messages, especially
before your father died. This is the first
I’ve known of that. It’s been a struggle,
it really has. Okay, if your mother
would have complied to the request that I made
for a DNA test,
I would have been there. (VOICE BREAKING)
You would have
never had to hurt for nothing. (AUDIENCE SIGHS IN SYMPATHY) Never wanted
for anything. MERAU:I want to answer
to that, no one ever asked me
for a DNA test.
You’re a liar!
I’ve requested from the courts,He never…I’ve requested, for 23 years
I’ve been fighting this,
Teresa.They never contacted me
with any requests, whatsoever.
You are a liar.
I’ve got the proof.No, I am not.The judge has the proof
where I’ve requested. And let me be clear. You have been responsible
for child support, Mr. Dennis, all these years? I have been homeless
because of it. (AUDIENCE GASPS) Mr. Dennis, you say
you have been denied… MR. DENNIS: By courts… …the DNA tests
that you’ve needed… Yes, ma’am,
for 23 years. …for 20-something years. Yes, ma’am. You have been homeless… I have been homeless… …because of the
child support. Can’t pay… Can’t… Can’t pay my bills
because my checks
have been garnished. Sixty-six and a third percent
of my check. MAN: Oh, my God. And I can’t pay rent,
I can’t do nothing. I don’t have a life. And I have got proof
of my arrears,
what I’m back owed. Jerome, let me
see that, please. And I can see
this makes you emotional because you believe… You did the right thing
in the beginning,
by requesting a DNA test. Yes, ma’am. You truly felt like,
at that time, your wife had been
unfaithful to you… Yes, ma’am. …and you asked
for a DNA test. Yes, ma’am. You were not granted it? Yes, ma’am. From that point on,
you were responsible
for child support… Yes, ma’am. …each and every month, over the last
20-something years… Yes, ma’am. …and you’ve now
just presented to the court… MR. DENNIS:
The arrears I’m behind.
JUDGE LAKE:That your payments
are approximately $300
every single month,
Whatever…And you are $146,918.51in arrears.MR. DENNIS:And I look over
my shoulder every day,
in fear of going to prison.
(AUDIENCE SIGHS IN SYMPATHY) And then this cycle
just kept continuing? Yes, ma’am,
because I can’t even
get my driver’s license. The reason
I haven’t been there, is because
I don’t believe
she is my child. Her mother
had denied me a DNA test, so why would I believe
the child’s mine? Why would I want
to get involved
with a child and come to find out,
years later that the child’s
not mine anyway. Because if your wife
had gotten pregnant by you
and it was your child, but you were
confused or doubtful, what’s the point?
“Let me just prove him wrong “and let’s have this DNA test
so you can be quiet.” MR. DENNIS: Exactly… So, Ms. Merau,
what would you like to say
in response? MERAU:That it was the biggest
load of horse pucky
I ever heard in my life.
for a DNA test…
You are a liar.I sent him pictures
for two years
after she was born.
What pictures?And they never even
acknowledged them.
JUDGE LAKE: Who did you
send pictures to?I mailed them pictures.Who did you mail pictures to?I sent them
to his parents
and they never
acknowledged her.
I ain’t never
seen any pictures. Mr. Dennis, you never
saw these photos? MR. DENNIS: Never.That are here
on the monitor?
AUDIENCE:Oh…Never. No, ma’am.You’ve never seen?…all of these pictures
that were sent?
Never.MR. DENNIS:Never seen them.JUDGE LAKE:And so,
in this moment,
I would like to give you
the opportunity,
Ms. Dennis, to look at the man
you believe
is your biological father and just tell him how it felt, to not have him in your life
the way you would have
liked to. Sitting there, knowing you have
a biological father,
out there, somewhere, that you can’t get
in contact with, and may not want
to be in contact with you, it does take a toll.
It’s sad and it hurts. I understand,
I do apologize
about that. Thank you. That’s… And she carries your name. Her name is Sheila Dennis. Even if you’re not her father,
her biological father, you have to understand
and empathize with the fact
that is what she’s been told.So, all of these years
she’s grown up just thinking
she’s not important enough
to pursue.
And I’m not… You know,
and I’m being very…
This is a human moment, ’cause I mean…
You think about it, somebody tells you,
“What do you know
about my daddy?” “He’s a truck driver.”
“A truck driver? “Well, why can’t he drive
to get to me?” I mean, that
is the logical conclusion,
she just did like this. Am I speaking the truth? (CHUCKLING) Yes.
Yes, ma’am. For a child… MR. DENNIS: Mmm-hmm. My father travels
across state lines, drives trucks,
makes deliveries, picks up and shows up for a living. But he can’t do
those things for me. I can understand… That’s what she’s lived with
for 20-something years. And I know you are being kind
and I know you are reserving
a lot of your emotion because you’re trying
to be strong. But I had to say it. Thank you. (SNIFFS) So, are you both prepared
for these results, either way? MS. DENNIS: Yes, ma’am. Have you really
thought about… Yes, Your Honor. …if I am, or if I’m not… I have. …if he is or if he isn’t, Yes, ma’am. I’m definitely ready
to find out the truth. I am, too. I’ve been
waiting 23 years. And I won’t make you
wait a moment longer. Jerome, may I have
the envelope, please? (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) These results were prepared
by DNA Diagnostics,
and they read as follows. “In the case
ofDennis v. Dennis…”When it comes
to 22-year-old Sheila Dennis, it has been determined
by this court, Mr. Dennis, you are the father. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) I’m sorry. Thank you. I’m sorry, baby. Thank you. (BOTH SOBBING) It’s good
to finally meet you. Same here. I’m sorry
for all the wasted years. Thank you. I apologize,
this is not your fault. We can try
to grow from here. Thank you. I’d like that a lot.
I love you. I love you. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING) I want the world
to know this is my daughter. (AUDIENCE SIGHS) I’ve missed her. Twenty-three years
have gone by in her life that we can’t ever
get back. Thank you, Your Honor. Thank you. Thank you. You can stand
with your daughter. You don’t have to thank me.
They call me “Your Honor,”
but it is truly my honor. You now have the truth,
and you know now that the denial
doesn’t have to be there. Right. You know that you can have
a relationship
with your daughter, you can be there for her. And you have now, Ms. Dennis, the biological father,
the relationship
with the biological father you always longed for. And there are going
to be tough times, that’s why we have
counseling and resources
for you, I want you
to take advantage of, because I want you to know
how to work through that. Today is the first day
of the rest of our life. MAN: Amen. JUDGE LAKE: That’s right.
I love that. So, I want you
to take hold of that, and move forward
in a positive way, take care of one another,
enjoy one another, catch up
on the last two decades. So, I enjoyed so much
getting a chance to help you all
sort through this. Well, I thank you,
Your Honor. Thank you. I wish you all
the very best of luck. Court is adjourned. MR. DENNIS: Thank you. (AUDIENCE APPLAUDING)

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