In Canada, a man can become the “father” of a woman’s child just by living with her. Even though he has no biological connection to the child, he can be saddled with 18 years of support just because he was there at the time the child was born. Moreover, that can happen even though he and the mother signed an agreement saying that neither wanted him to have any parental rights or obligations toward the child. The case of Jane Doe vs. Alberta is five years old, but I just learned of it and obviously haven’t written about it before. Here’s an article about it (National Post, 5/31/07).
We’ve all heard about the American man who had an affair of a few months with a woman and every time they had sex, he used a condom because he didn’t want to father a child. She had other ideas, however. So she began taking the used condom with her into the bathroom where she inseminated herself. Her efforts at conception were successful and, even though the child was the result of her deceit, even though the man clearly did not consent to being a dad, the court ruled that he was the biological father, however that was accomplished, and required him to pay support.
Foul as that situation was due to the mother’s deceit, the Canadian case has its own special odor of misandry. In it, the woman and the man liked each other very well and lived together in a sexual relationship. There was only one hitch – she wanted a child and he didn’t. So they signed an agreement reciting that he understood she was going to a sperm bank for artificial insemination, but that, if she conceived, he would have neither rights nor duties toward the child. In due course she became pregnant by an anonymous donor to the sperm bank.
Now, how the case got to court, the article carefully omits. After all, courts don’t have a hotline to every house in the country telling them the details of the goings on within. Someone has to file a suit, and since the parties are Jane Doe and the province of Alberta, I’ll guess that she received some sort of benefits from the provincial government that it then demanded be reimbursed by the father. She responded that the dad was unknown and unknowable due to the anonymity of the sperm bank. But then the province got the bright idea of asserting a claim against the live-in, unmarried boyfriend. And lo and behold, it worked. Such, at any rate, is my guess.
The appellate court said that the man’s mere presence in the house of a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship, somehow made him the father. They weren’t married, so the presumption of paternity didn’t come into play, and he had no biological relationship with the child. Amazing, but true.
At this point, I think it’s time for me to renew my tongue-in-cheek call to courts and legislatures to make the adjudication of father’s rights and duties a lot simpler than it is today. I would do that by just assigning fathers to children at random. I’d create a list of all the men in the country and, every time a child was born, assign it a dad. Yes, some mothers would get stuck with an ex-con or some blue-collar guy, but hey, some lucky woman would get Bill Gates, so it’d all even out.
I’m sure many people may demur at my modest proposal, but as it stands now, a man who actually, physically fathers a child can lose it if the mother wants him to and is the least bit smart about doing so. One or two well-placed lies is all it takes. It’s harder if the father is married to the mother of his child, but even then some creative reworking of the facts is all it takes to oust him from the child’s life for good.
On the other side of the coin, a man who lets his guard down for an instant can find himself the father of a child he never wanted and took every precaution but complete celibacy to effect (see above). And a woman’s telling a man “the baby’s yours” is usually sufficient to get him to take up his parental duties whether he’s the dad or not. In addition, when it comes to child support, state attorneys general care little about whether they tag the right man or the wrong man, just so long as they get someone to pay.
More than anything, that’s what the Canadian case smells like to me. They wanted someone to pay and John Doe was the closest guy around with a wallet, so he was saddled with a child he never wanted and had done nothing to bring into the world.
So what’s the difference between that and just picking someone at random? As I said before, maybe she’d hit the jackpot. Hey, Keanu Reeves is Canadian.
The whole idea behind child support is that both parents participated in the child’s conception, so both should be responsible for its care and upbringing. It’s a perfectly sound concept if we really meant it, but we don’t, as the Canadian case and the American one cited above make abundantly clear. And if we really cared a whit about the child’s care and upbringing, wouldn’t we make at least some effort to enforce the visitation rights of non-custodial parents? Of course we would, but we do little of that either. That’s because we think a father’s money is more important than a father’s love. As it turns out, pretty much anything that serves to get the former is good enough for us.
I suppose I should add that the article linked to manages to construe the Canadian man’s plight as an injustice to the mother. Yes, you read that right. He didn’t want the child and she did. She agreed to not ask him for support. Now she has the child she wanted plus his presence in the home plus his money for support. So how is it that she’s the one hurt? According to the article, that’s because she wanted to be a single mother and the court wouldn’t let her. Of course how she could claim to be a single mother with the man living in the house, paying half the bills, etc. escapes me and the authors don’t explain, but there it is.
I bring up the article’s slant only to make more clear the astonishingly anti-male atmosphere surrounding the entire case. How a court could decide this man is the child’s father, I’ll never guess. How the two authors could convince themselves it was the woman who suffered in the case is equally obscure.