The Bradley Amendment is a controversial federal law concerning child support payments which was enacted in 1986. The basic purpose of the Bradley Amendment is to prevent those who are tasked with child support payments from having debts retroactively reduced or removed after failure to pay them creates a large debt. Under the terms of the Bradley Amendment, someone who experiences a loss of income must apply immediately to the court system to have the size of their payments adjusted immediately. Otherwise, they will be liable for the payments they were unable to make and will accrue interest as well. Under the terms of the Bradley Amendment, once this debt is incurred it cannot be erased.
Though the Bradley Amendment has been cited by some as successful in compelling wealthy non-payers to make their payments, some opponents claim that the severity of the law and the inability of a judge to amend its application in anyway has resulted in injustices. Several cases have been cited to argue that the Bradley Amendment is unfair and destructive.
One such cases concerns Clarence Brandley, who was arrested and convicted of a murder he did not commit in 1980. After being exonerated and released from jail in 1990, he filed a lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment. However, at this time the state of Texas charged that under the Bradley Amendment, Clarence Brandley had a debt totaling nearly $50,000, largely composed of interest, as his original 1980 debt had been roughly $70,000.
While the debt of Clarence Brandley remains an issue, his experiences led the state of Texas to pass a bill designed to modify the more severe consequences of the Bradley Amendment. In 2007, the Texas state legislature passed a bill stating that in cases of wrongful imprisonment, the state of Texas would be responsible for making payments required by the Bradley Amendment that an incarcerated person was incapable of making.
Another prominent case concerning the Bradley Amendment began in 1992, when Taron Grant James was named as the father of the child of Tami Burton while he was serving in the Navy. The child was not his and Taron Grant James was not aware that he had been named as the father on the birth certificate. In 1994, James was served with a complaint addressed to Teodoro Alfonso Martinez. Believing he had received the complaint in error, he ignored it. Subsequently he was ordered to make child payments of $121 a month.
In 2001, Taron Grant James established via a DNA test that he was not the father of the child. Therefore, he filed a lawsuit to recover the money made for payments totaling over $12,000 compelled by the Bradley Amendment for a child which was not his. However, he was denied reimbursement for these erroneous payments because California state law contains language that lacks clarity on whether or not public agencies can refund such erroneous payments.