2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 03:30
Unknown father, absent father, anonymous father: when the father does not exist on the baby's birth declaration, what are the legal and emotional consequences?
It is not illegal to deny the paternity of the man with whom you have conceived a child, unless you are legally married or in a civil union with him.
The couple is breaking up? The new mother can refuse to recognize the paternity of the parent if the child was born more than 300 days after the judgment of the separation. It can also be omitted if the child comes into the world before this 300-day period, but after his remarriage.
Before going any further, let us specify that the confirmation of the identity of any young Quebecer at birth is based on these bases: it is first necessary to establish the type of filiation that links the child to the parents: it can be a relationship by blood, by assisted procreation or by adoption.
At the birth of the child, the obstetrician fills in the boxes of a form which mentions the place, the date and time of the birth of the child and his sex, as well as the name and the mother's home address. This is the information that will then be found on the birth certificate and which establishes the legal identity of the child.
The mothermay also not include the name of the biological father if they are not married, if the relationship is over and in addition he was not present during the delivery.
The new mother is not forced to justify her decision, points out Me Marina Crivello, lawyer and associate at Me Yves Ménard's office, who agreed to dissect this somewhat complex theme of recognition – or rather, the non-recognition - of paternity. The use of this right is quite frequent, she points out.
An unrecognized – and undeclared – father has NO financial obligation towards the child he has conceived. "Even if the mother receives employment insurance benefits, she will not be able to claim alimony", specifies Me Crivello.
On the other hand, if the father has left his new family and thus waived his responsibilities towards her, but his name is on the birth certificate, the mother can claim child support if she has financial difficulties, for example because she is on social assistance.
Dad is missing in the wild and can't be found? Justice will try to find him, but we shouldn't pin too many hopes on that either.
The mother cannot, however, demand the retroactive payment of child support if the undeclared father resurfaces one day.
Remorse of conscience and return
The man who wishes to establish his rights and title, andassuming his role as a father after being declared an "absent father" or "father unknown" will have to go a long and expensive way to achieve this, because he will first have to undergo a DNA test (around $400) to prove his parentage to the child. Once the biological link has been established, he will have to file a request for right of access to the child or children to the Court.
This right is generally granted to men whose DNA proves the blood link with the child, underlines the lawyer. However, as the child does not know the father from whom he is descended, the mother may require that his visits be supervised.
Me Crivello cites this example: the mother gives birth in the presence of the new man in her life and in the absence of the man with whom she conceived her baby. The name of her new lover is registered in the birth certificate, where it is necessary to register the name of the father of the child. The child calls him daddy.
Some time later, the biological father filed a motion to contest the paternity of this “surrogate father” and thus regain his father's rights. The lawyer rejects the request, citing the spirit of the law, which places stability before blood ties when it comes time to determine with which father the child will be able to live. In addition, the name of the new spouse is registered on the birth certificate: his paternity is absolutely legal.
In fact, paternity confirmed by the birth certificate is not set in stone forever, says Me Crivello. A mother can file a request for disqualificationof parental authority. The lawyer gives this example. “The mother declares the biological father on the birth certificate, and three months before the birth, he is imprisoned. If he is released, say five years later, and wants to see his child again, the mother can file this petition, using the argument that the father has abandoned the child.”
The forfeiture of parental authority constitutes an exceptional draconian measure, specifies the lawyer. The interest of the child, of course, but also serious reasons must justify its appeal, she underlines. These grounds are: gross negligence, abandonment, failure to fulfill one's duty to educate, failure to provide for the child's food needs and lack of interest in the child.
The mother can also use it if the father has fled into the wild, despite the fact that the birth certificate does contain his name.
And the child in all this?
Moms who have excluded the father from the first moments of their child's life believe they are protecting him by not mentioning the existence of this biological dad. However, points out Marie-Josée Mercier, psychologist, this silence can be unhe althy for the child. "If we don't tell him anything, he risks interpreting what is not revealed by appealing to his imagination". Camouflaged reality is likely to be distorted when it returns later in the life of the child or adolescent.
Parentage is an important basis for the development of the identity ofthe child, as well as their sense of belonging. It is therefore better to explain his reality to him, without necessarily revealing all the details. The mother can for example mention that he does have a father, but that he did not feel ready to take care of him after his birth. Obviously, it is useless to launch into this explanation if the child is under the age of five, because he will not be able to understand. From kindergarten, however, he will probably ask questions about his father since he will then be confronted with the family reality of his classmates, different from his own.