Compo wanted after 21-year fight with bureaucracy
A Christchurch man who has won a 21-year battle against bureaucracy will continue to seek compensation after being forced to support another man’s child since 1984.
The Ministry of Social Development has agreed to pay Gordon Dowler $10,000 after a battle that has dragged on since 1984, first with Social Welfare and then with Inland Revenue after the IRD took over collecting payments.
Dowler, a specialist welder, is now applying for expenses and interest which may exceed the amount he paid from 1982 to 2003.
Dowler said he had been “harassed” by the child support officials every month since 1984, over money he knew he should not be paying.
The 51-year-old said he was not able to prove his case with a DNA test until 2003, when he contacted the now grown-up child and arranged the test which proved he was not the biological father. The mother had previously blocked his attempts to get a test, he said.
The Inland Revenue Department promptly paid him the $8000 he was owed after the DNA test showed he was not the father.
The Ministry of Social Development was more reluctant, holding out until yesterday, when it agreed to pay Dowler the $10,000 he had paid for child support before 2003.
Dowler’s story began in 1981, when the mother of the child called him while he was overseas to tell him she was pregnant with his baby.
Dowler returned to New Zealand and bought a house for his new family. Three months after the birth, however, he found out the baby was not his after speaking with an ex-boyfriend of the mother.
Despite knowing he was not the father, Dowler helped look after the baby for the next 18 months, saying little about its parentage because he felt embarrassed, he said.
He found it difficult to part with the baby when the couple separated in 1983.
“I remember taking the little (baby) in my arms and walking around the block and I explained to her Mummy was going to take her away,” he said.
“It ripped my heart out.”
He started paying child support, but soon after began to contest the payments, which were about 20 per cent of his income.
“It has definitely influenced the course of my life because I have had no money to do anything. Every month I have been harassed. You get the letter and you don’t eat for two days…it really knocks you,” he said.
“You have this hopeless feeling that you’ve got no rights.”
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