Long-time deadbeat dads aren’t moved by much; not by threats of jail, not by being dragged into court over and over, and not by the suffering of the children they helped bring into the world. A judge in Wisconsin decided to deal with one such child support delinquent by adding two very unusual conditions to his recent sentence.
The 28 year-old father has been placed on probation for two year (not unusual), ordered not to have more children until he pays all the support he owes (unusual), and he must inform any woman he meets, within the first three minutes, that he is a convicted felon and owes child support (very unusual).
The man pleaded guilty last October to felony charges of failing to pay child support. He’s no stranger to the legal system, having been charged in the past with drug offenses, drinking and driving, and domestic violence. The no-more-children provision is the second time in a month that a Wisconsin judge has imposed such a condition. Another court, back in December, ordered a father of nine not to make it ten until he paid back every penny he owes. The judge went so far as to suggest that he would order the man sterilized if it were legal. The three minute warning requirement seems to be a first. It’s not clear how such a time limit would be enforced, unless the probation department sent a female decoy with a stopwatch. The judge didn’t elaborate and when contacted by a reporter, he refused comment.
While a similar case came up back in 2001, a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a lower court order requiring a deadbeat dad to catch up with his payments before fathering any more children. The court ruled that state law gave judges wide discretion. “A Wisconsin judge can take into account a broad array of factors,” the majority wrote, “including the gravity of the offense and the need for the protection of the public and potential victims.” All three women on the court dissented, saying that procreation was a fundamental right that cannot be taken away by court order. The Ohio Supreme Court overturned a similar sentence there and cited Wisconsin’s decision in the case. In the Ohio baby ban sentence, the justices said the lower court did not include a provision in the father’s sentence allowing him to become a daddy again once the child support bills were paid.