By Gerri Elder
When Micheal Thomas was first contacted by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services regarding child support for Tiffany Dickson's daughter he thought nothing of it. After all, how many people named Micheal--or Michael--Thomas are there? Both are common names and he thought they must be looking for another Micheal Thomas.
Thomas could have never imagined how far DHS would go in pursuing him for child support for the child of a woman he had never met.
DHS had Thomas declared the father of Dickson's baby and hounded him for child support, seized his tax returns and flipped his life upside down. Thomas' wages were garnished to pay the child support, and eventually the ordeal forced him to drop out of college and forfeit a football scholarship.
According to a report by the Oklahoman, Dickson says she never met Thomas, and he is not the father of her child. Thomas also submitted to DNA testing to prove that he wasn't the father. Still, DHS refused to provide him with the results of the DNA test that proved he was not the father and continued to garnish his wages until he hired a lawyer.
Thomas' lawyer, Billy Wiland III, says that he has evidence that DHS filed false reports with a Comanche County judge. These false reports caused the case to continue when the mistake could have been cleared up.
One such report falsely claimed that Thomas had ignored all the attempts that DHS had made to contact him and had not made any effort to contact the department. This report was made after Thomas had voluntarily taken two paternity tests.
Wiland has filed a legal claim on Thomas' behalf, asking for $167,000 in damages for the intentional or reckless infliction of severe emotional distress. He has also suggested that Thomas may have been a victim of racial profiling.
A lawyer for DHS says that the matter is under investigation, and a spokesman for DHS says that the agency is hopeful that the matter can be resolved. Yet, the agency has so far failed to return a cent of the money they have wrongfully taken from Thomas to support a child that is not his.
Dickson gave birth to a daughter on March 31, 2005. The state took the baby from her the following day, after DHS reported that both Dickson and her child tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.
In June 2005, DHS filed a report with a Comanche County judge that stated that Dickson did not know the last name of the baby's father. She only knew that his first name was Michael and said that she believed he was running from the law.
Dickson at one point told a DHS worker that she believed that the last name of her baby's father may have been Thomas and that he lived in Lawton.
Thomas lives in Tulsa and has never lived in Lawton. Dickson says she knows that he is not her baby's father.
In December 2005, DHS filed another report with a Comanche County judge. This report stated that one of Dickson's relatives said the man believed to be the father of the baby was incarcerated at the Jackson County jail. When the DHS worker checked with the jail, a man named Michael Thomas had been there but had already been released.
The Micheal Thomas that has been hounded by DHS spells his first name differently than the suspected father and was 18-years-old when the baby was born. The Michael Thomas that was released from Jackson County Jail was 37-years-old in March 2005. Thomas also lives more than 200 miles away from the suspected father.
After arranging to take two paternity tests and not receiving the results from DHS, Thomas says he called and asked to speak with his caseworker. He says he was told that he would have to get a lawyer.
Later, Thomas says that he contacted DHS again and asked about meeting with Dickson and seeing the child. At that point he was told that was impossible because of confidentiality rules, and he was again advised to get a lawyer.
Thomas says that he took the advice and found a family law attorney. As a result, DHS finally stopped garnishing his wages, but he has not received a refund of the money that was wrongfully seized from him for child support.
Wiland agreed to handle Thomas’ case for free and will continue to fight for a fair outcome for Thomas.