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. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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