Blogger’s Note: The following post first appeared in the NY Nonprofit Press E-Newsletter in 2014. It has been reposted in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
My relative Melinda and I ran out of a Bronx, New York Family courtroom laughing uncontrollably. I was nearly stumbling, clutching my stomach, tears filling my eyes. People were looking at me quizzically.
Melinda was brought to two family courts in New York City three times by a man, Juan, who insisted that he was the father of her daughter Lila. He is not. Melinda and Juan dated for about six months and were never sexually active. While dating Melinda, Juan was verbally abusive, controlling, and he even stalked her. Juan later misused our legal system in an attempt to achieve his twisted end of forcing Melinda and her daughter Lila into his life.
Melinda met Juan while attending community college back in early 2000. He asked for her phone number, but she initially refused. He persisted until Melinda finally agreed.
After dating for two months, Juan wanted to have a baby with Melinda. “He wanted me to drop out of school and have a kid with him. I told him“that’s ridiculous. I didn’t come here to start a family.” Juan kept up the pressure on Melinda to have a baby, but she refused to have sex with him.
Melinda broke up with Juan in late 2000. She met someone else with whom she had a daughter Lila in 2003.
Juan learned about Melinda’s daughter in 2006. He called and asked Melinda on a date and she declined. Juan’s harassment continued and things got bizarre. In 2009, Juan commenced court action, claiming paternity of Melinda’s daughter.
During the first court appearance, the judge asked if there were any objections to a DNA test. Melinda had none. But as Juan spun his tale of being Lila’s father, the judge was having none of it. This is an excerpt from the transcript:
The Court: It’s impossible for you to be the father. You had sex with her in Octo—let’s even say October. It’s impossible that you’re the father. Even—even early December, even November let’s say. It—it—you’re not the father of this child. It’s too many months. To do the math, the child was born in September of ’03.
Juan: All right.
The Court: Well—so I am dismissing your petition.
Juan: Okay. Cool.
A DNA test was done in 2010. The results: “Combined paternity Index=0. Probability of Paternity=0.00% Conclusion: The alleged father, Juan, cannot be the biological father of Lila, since he and the child do not share necessary paternal markers in multiple genetic systems.” The second court appearance was in Queens Family Court to review the DNA results. Case dismissed.
Juan did not give up.
“Dear Melinda: I am writing you this letter to inform you that the DNA test we took 6/9/2010 is null and void. The reason the test is null and void is because I was eating during the test and the DNA test center/DNA company was supposed to wait for up to 30 minutes to an hour before issuing the DNA test….Melinda the DNA test will not hold up in court do to what has happen.”
Summoned to court for a third time, Melinda showed up at Bronx Family Court, armed with her paperwork including the DNA test result, petitions, letters, court transcript. I came for support and tried not to eye Juan too much though I was seething.
The judge asked Melinda and Juan about their dating relationship. Melinda answered all of the questions calmly. She denied that Juan was Lila’s father, and named the father during the hearing. Juan was unswayed. The judge asked if the parties would agree to take a DNA test. Melinda responded that one had been done. She presented the judge with a copy of the report. The judge read it and asked Juan about it. Juan claimed that he was told by someone in another court that the DNA test was null and void because he ate before the test.
“This is silly!” said the judge in disgust. I began to tear up while simultaneously breaking into a smile. Melinda kept her composure.
“I’m just repeating what I was told,” said Juan, responding like a petulant child.
The judge called Juan’s case frivolous and openly expressed his contempt for Juan’s actions. “This is low,” said the judge. Of the DNA results, the judge told Juan “You could eat a steak with onions and drink a whole bottle of Hennessy and that would not alter the results of the DNA exam!” The judge continued to refer to Juan’s actions as “low.”
Trying to sound like a victim, Juan insisted that he was only repeating what he was told about the DNA results.
The judge was fuming. He repeatedly threatened to fine Juan and garnish his wages, issuing a stern warning to him to leave Melinda alone. “If you come back into this courtroom with this, I will sort you out!” Juan had nothing more to say.
The judge apologized to Melinda that he hadn’t gotten the previous court reports. The judge told Melinda that if Juan ever contacts her again, he will hear her case personally. He told Melinda he doesn’t care if she is in Timbuktu, he will hear the case! The case was dismissed and I ran out of the courtroom in stitches, Melinda laughing right behind me. Juan practically ran down the hallway to get away from us.
“I felt great, like a big burden lifting off me,” said Melinda of her court victory. “Inside I was jumping up and down.”
But Juan does not give up.
Melinda had to go to court with him in the Bronx again, but his case was shut down. He has not been in touch since. Melinda has been traumatized by her experience with Juan and gets upset whenever she think about it. Juan could probably care less about the chaos he has caused. He is not well and I hope women stay far away from him.
Situations like Melinda’s are why I get furious when I hear of men who cannot accept “no”, and then go on to destroy some woman’s life. Some of us women say “no” and we end up being stalked, slashed, stabbed, or shot. There are just too many men like Juan who do not respect women’s boundaries and choices, even if a judge tells them to do so.