ILNews

Unwed father must reimburse Medicaid

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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An order for an unwed father to pay back Medicaid at least 50 percent of birthing expenses for the mother and baby does not violate the father's rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In In the Matter of the Paternity of A.R.S.A.; Alberto S. Meneses v. Rudit A. Legunes, 79A04-0706-JV-323, Meneses appealed the trial court order that he has to pay Medicaid 50 percent of the birthing expenses incurred during the birth of his son. Meneses is not married to the mother, Legunes, but does live with her.

Meneses argues that Indiana Code 31-14-17-1 only pertains to the reimbursement of the mother's medical expenses, not the expenses of the infant. He also argues his rights are being violated under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, contending that married fathers are not required to reimburse expenses to Medicaid and the court never allowed him an opportunity to show if he could pay the amount ordered in the judgment.

Meneses signed a paternity affidavit declaring himself to be the biological father of A.R.S.A., and the trial court later entered an order establishing his paternity. In a separate judgment, the trial court ordered Meneses to pay 50 percent of the baby's birthing expenses totaling nearly $3,300. Meneses filed a motion to correct error regarding the Medicaid birthing expenses; the trial court denied the motion.

Indiana Code 31-14-17-1 states the court "shall order the father to pay at least fifty percent (50%) of the reasonable and necessary expenses of the mother's pregnancy and childbirth, including the cost of:" prenatal care, delivery, hospitalization, and postnatal care. Judge Patricia Riley wrote the baby's medical expenses were incurred because of and immediately following his birth, and the plain language of the statute orders the father to pay 50 percent of expenses of mother's pregnancy and childbirth.

"Any expenses relating to childbirth logically include expenses incurred by the infant during and immediately following birth," Judge Riley wrote.

Meneses also argues the Indiana statute violates the Equal Protection Clause because only unwed fathers can be ordered to pay the expenses and no similar obligation exists for married fathers.

Judge Riley wrote a state's interest in requiring men to provide for children born out-of-wedlock and reimburse medical expenses is a "legitimate goal" because it requires a man to accept financial responsibility similar to what married men do voluntarily.

His rights were not violated because the court did not hold a hearing to determine how much money he would be able to afford to reimburse Medicaid. The federal and state Medicaid statutes for reimbursement don't impose any obligation on the trial court to conduct an inquiry into the father's ability to pay and instead impose a certain financial responsibility upon the father, she wrote.
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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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