A Big Island man is accused of being a deadbeat dad. But he says he’s not the child’s father and has the test results to prove it.
For nearly 20 years, the state has been trying to collect child support payments from Peter Ortiz.
He contacted KHON2’s Action Line asking for help.
For Ortiz, it all started back in 1995, when he got his first letter from the Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency.
“I quickly replied to them denying paternity,” Ortiz said.
But the letters continue to this day.
“They’ve got liens on my property. I cannot use the property at all. It’s all liened out. They send me threatening notices, I cannot get a passport. They hit me with everything and I am without resolve,” Ortiz said.
The Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency claims Ortiz is the father of a child who’s now 37 years old.
Ortiz, who lives in the Puna District of the Big Island, has been ordered to pay $24,000 worth of back payments.
That’s despite the child’s mother repeatedly telling the state that Ortiz is not the father.
Ortiz asked the child to go in for a DNA test years ago.
“And so my son did, and it was definitely proven that he was in no way the father of my son. So once again we thought it was done but evidently not,” the child’s mother Maxine Camvel said.
Camvel now lives in San Diego, California.
“I don’t know how many ways you can tell the state that he is not the father. If a DNA couldn’t prove that, I don’t know what to say,” Camvel said.
To this day, Camvel still doesn’t know who the father is, but remembers his name was similar to Ortiz’s.
“I cannot believe it and it saddens me that he’s had to go through all this,” Camvel said.
KHON2 reached out to the Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency — a division within the Attorney General’s Office.
When asked how often does someone get falsely accused of being the father of a child, Garry Kemp, Hawaii Child Support Enforcement Agency Administrator replied: “Almost never, and I say that because whenever there’s any doubt about the paternity in a case we require people to be tested.”
The state usually picks up the tab for the DNA test. In Ortiz’s case, he says he paid for the test himself.
“It took me 2 1/2 months to save enough money to take a paternity test, which I took it at the same place where the state does their paternity blood testing, got back my results. I forwarded the results to the Attorney General and walked in the results to the Child Support Enforcement Agency, and at that point I still had no resolve on my case,” Ortiz said.
Kemp says their agency implements and enforces court orders. They currently handle more than 85,000 child support cases.
“If there’s been a judgement somewhere that was wrong, I can’t speak about it because of confidentiality laws but we don’t make those decisions. So that if there was one that was wrong that was made, it was not made by us. And we may be enforcing it but that’s because we’re required to under the law,” Kemp said.
The questions remains to be answered. Is somebody guilty until proven innocent? Kemp replied: “If somebody says that somebody’s the father of the child, we go to court and we serve everybody and require everybody to show up and require everybody to do the testing. So I don’t know if it’s an unfair process. It’s what the law requires.”
Ortiz admits that he and Camvel may have missed some of the court hearings in the past. But he says he doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer to try to correct things.
“If they can get a judgement that says they’re not the father, we’re glad to implement it. We’re not here to hold people accountable except to the extent that we have court orders saying that we have to do it,” Kemp said.
KHON2 put Ortiz in touch with the Attorney General’s Office.
KHON2 also reached out to a family lawyer for advice on what people should do if they’re in a situation similar to what Ortiz has been going through.
“You really want to find an attorney to talk to, whether it’s calling a private attorney or speaking to someone at Volunteer Legal Services or Legal Aid. It’s really important to bring the letter so you can talk with the attorney about what the letter specifically says,” Family Lawyer Gavin Doi said.
Doi says Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii has attorneys who do volunteer pro bono work. And Legal Aid Society of Hawaii also helps people and families who can’t afford to hire a private attorney.
And if you have a consumer concern, call KHON2’s Action Line at (808) 591-0222. Volunteers will help you get the answers you need weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org