On appeal from Department of Human Services, Division of Public Welfare.
Antell and Brody. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brody, J.A.D.
The Burlington County Board of Social Services reduced from $385 to $202 the monthly grant to R. K. and her children T and S, an eligible unit receiving Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The reduction is the amount of assistance that had been given R. K. as the caretaker relative of the children. She lost this sum because the Board concluded that she was withholding the identity of T's father. The Director of the New Jersey Division of Public Welfare (the Director), adopting the initial decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ), affirmed the action of the County Board. R. K. appeals.
The Board had begun providing assistance around the time of T's birth in August 1980. At the behest of the Board, R. K. commenced a paternity action against F. R., who she said was T's father. The action was apparently dismissed when a Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) blood test, administered in March 1981, excluded F. R. from being T's father. Through "administrative error" the Board continued the grant without making any further effort to learn the identity of T's father until the fall of 1984, when R. K. applied for increased assistance on account of the birth of S, her second child. F. R. is not S's father.
A Board worker confronted R. K. in 1984 with the report of the 1981 HLA blood test. R. K. responded that the blood test must be wrong because F. R. is T's father. She continues to maintain that fact. The Board concluded that R. K. was concealing evidence of the true identity of T's father and reduced the grant.
"Cooperation" by an AFDC applicant, an eligibility requirement under N.J.A.C. 10:81-11.2(a)3, includes "[a]ppearing at the offices of the appropriate child support agencies as necessary to provide oral or written information, or documentary evidence relevant to obtaining support, which is known to, possessed by or reasonably obtainable by the client." N.J.A.C. 10:81-11.5(d)1. If R. K. has been concealing the identity of T's father, she would be violating the cooperation requirement. The result of an HLA blood test that contradicts information given by an applicant may be used as evidence that the applicant is concealing the truth.
R. K. argues that the ALJ and the Director erroneously treated the results of the blood test as conclusive evidence that F. R. is not T's father and that R. K. is concealing the father's true identity. We agree. The ALJ made the following findings:
In this matter, the HLA blood sample paternity test determined the type of white bloodcell antigens which are possessed by the respondent, her son, and the putative father. Every human has four different antigens, and these could be any combination of four different antigens from the 40 antigens appearing in the human race. It is also known that each person has two antigens in common with his mother and two in common with his father. In the usual paternity case, it is determined which of the child's antigens he has in common with his mother, and then the child's two remaining antigens which were inherited from his true father are compared with the four antigens from the putative father to see if any of the antigens match up. In this matter, F. R. is excluded as the father of the child since he possesses neither of the antigens which the child inherited from his true father.*fn1
Since F. R. is excluded as the father of the child as a result of the HLA blood sample paternity test, and since the respondent has continued to insist that F. R. is the father of her child, despite the scientifically reliable HLA blood test, I must CONCLUDE, based upon the foregoing findings of fact and the applicable regulations, that the petitioner County Welfare Agency may properly reduce the respondent's AFDC grant from $385.00 to $202.00 per month by deleting
the respondent from the eligible unit as a result of the respondent's failure to cooperate with the Child Support and Paternity Unit in establishing paternity.
The ALJ and the Director treated the test results as conclusive on the issue of paternity. The ALJ found that "F. R. is excluded as the father of the child since he possesses neither of the antigens which the child inherited from his true father." The Director concluded that "[i]n view of the scientific reliability of the HLA test and the acceptance of finding[s] from this ...