- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Nick Olivas is fighting an order to pay thousands of dollars in back child support, saying much of it was incurred when he was still a child himself.

The Phoenix medical assistant, now 24, found out two years ago when he was served with legal papers that he fathered a daughter at the age of 14. Olivas and a 20-year-old woman allegedly had sex when he was in high school, Olivas told The Arizona Republic (https://bit.ly/1lG8wlX ). Because of his age, Olivas would have been considered a rape victim under Arizona law.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sex crimes, but Olivas has spoken publicly with The Arizona Republic about his experience.

Children younger than 15 cannot consent to sex with an adult, according to the law. However, Olivas never pressed charges.

The circumstances of his daughter’s conception, however, are not affecting the state pursuing him for child support. Olivas owes $15,000 in support and medical bills dating to the girl’s birth, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The state has seized money from his bank account and is taking about $380 a month from his wages, he said. Child-support payments go toward reimbursing the state for assisting custodial parents who used public assistance programs.

Olivas said he wants a relationship with his child but shouldn’t have to pay fees for the years when he was a minor.

“Anything I do as an adult, I should be responsible for,” he said. “But as a teenager? I don’t think so.”

The Department of Economic Security, which oversees the state’s 153,000 active child-support cases, typically does not make exceptions in cases such as Olivas’. But according to policy, an exemption can be made if the parent asking for child support has been found guilty of sexual assault with a minor or sexual assault.

“We don’t see those cases very often, and we’re really glad for that,” said attorney Janet Sell, chief counsel with the attorney general’s office’s Child and Family Protection Division.

The state cannot get a court order for child support from a parent who is not yet an adult, which is likely why Olivas didn’t learn until later about his child. Arizona mandates parents wanting public assistance from state welfare programs first try getting child support.

Mel Feit, director of New York-based advocacy group National Center for Men, said statutory rape victims such as Olivas shouldn’t be held responsible for payments - even if they were willing participants.

“We’re not going to hold him responsible for the sex act, so to then turn around and say we’re going to hold him responsible for the child that resulted from that act is off-the-charts ridiculous,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

In other states, the courts have consistently agreed that even crime victims can be charged with child support. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that a 13-year-old boy who impregnated his 17-year-old baby sitter was liable for child support. In California, a state court came to the same conclusion a few years later regarding a 15-year-old boy who had sex with a 34-year-old neighbor. The neighbor was convicted of statutory rape.

Olivas said he can’t afford a lawyer but he wants to dispute some of the costs. He’s also hoping to see his daughter.

“I lost my mom at a young age. I know what it’s like to only have one parent,” he said. “I can’t leave her out there. She deserves a dad.”

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