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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

February 8th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
This piece
tells us about a man (unnamed) who’s been told by a Quebec Superior Court Judge that he has to pay child support for three children who aren’t his (Winnipeg Sun, 2/6/13).  The man and the mother of the children separated after 16 years of marriage.  In the household were four children, three girls ages 12, 14 and 16, and a boy, 9.  During their divorce proceedings, the man got genetic testing done and discovered that the three oldest kids weren’t fathered by him.  In fact, they were fathered by three different men.  Only the boy is his.

Naturally, he asked the court to be relieved of paying child support for the girls, but the court refused.  He has to pay to support the three as well as his son.

“Since I learned that I am a broken man,” the father told QMI Agency.

I can only imagine.

The article is short and doesn’t go into the court’s “reasoning,” but we all know what it is.  He’s always acted the part of father to the kids and he’s the only father they’ve ever known.  Therefore, it’s (all together now) ”in the best interests of the children” that he be forced to support them.

Now, on the surface that logic has a certain appeal.  After all, it’s not the children who are serial adulterers.  They had no control over who had sex with their mother and supplied the DNA to create them.  Why should they suffer the loss of the only father they’ve ever known just to punish the mother?

All that’s true enough, but even a cursory glance at how family courts actually behave let’s us know it’s nonsense.  Consider another scenario.  What if the man actually were the biological father of all the children?  What would have happened when Mom decided to divorce?  Pretty much the same thing.  She’d get the kids, he’d get to see them four days a month and be told to pay support.  What would have happened if she then decided to deny his visitation rights?  If his case is typical of most in Canada, the court would do little or nothing to enforce those rights.  In vain would the man plead with the court “The best interests of the child require that they see me as much as possible; I’m the only father they’ve ever known!”

In family courts, a child’s “best interests” are an ever-shifting goal post.  Now it’s here; now it’s somewhere else.  Guess where it’ll turn up next.  When it comes to paying child support, the child’s best interests require Dad (or even non-Dad) to do so.  But when it comes to his actually having a real relationship with his child – poof! – they’re gone in a puff of smoke.

What if Mom, once divorced, wants to remarry?  That of course means bringing a new man, a stepfather, into the child’s life, further marginalizing the man the child has always identified as Dad.  In that case too, the courts think nothing of granting the divorce and of course the remarriage is such a given the courts aren’t even involved.  Is that upsetting to the child?  Of course it is.  Maybe Mom’s new heartthrob is a lousy father, maybe he doesn’t even like kids.  Doesn’t matter.  No one would dream of telling Mom she can’t remarry, but what happened to the child’s best interests?  Those goal posts sure are hard to find sometimes.

What was the duped man trying to accomplish by asking to be relieved of paying support?  As far as the children go, it looks a lot like Mom’s remarriage, albeit more complicated.  He was asking for the court to allow the three other men to take up their rights and duties as fathers.  He was asking the true fathers to come into the girls’ lives, begin supporting them and start playing the role of non-resident dads.  Meanwhile, he’d be doing the same for his son.  What’s the problem with that?  Would it be upsetting and confusing to the kids?  Probably so, but no more than divorce, loss of the only father they’ve ever known, and remarriage.  That gets done every day many times a day; but when it comes to granting a man any power over his own parental rights and duties, courts fall back in horror like a vampire before the cross.

And, speaking of the best interests of children, what about the fact that it was the serial adulterer who got custody?  I know it’s essentially automatic for mothers to get custody of children, but there’s no evidence the man was a bad parent.  By contrast, there’s uncontradicted evidence that the mother is a lousy role model.  So if the judge were really interested in doing what’s best for the kids, it seems that “Dad” should raise them and Mom should pay support.  My guess is that never crossed the judge’s mind.

Meanwhile, there are three men, each with a child he may not even know about and who in any event he doesn’t get to see.  If they’re like most men, they’d probably want a relationship with their children once Mom deigns to let them know they’re the fathers.  What is the court telling them?  Tough luck, dudes; Mom decided your parental rights for you.  Yes, she had sex with you despite being married, but when she conceived and bore your child, she decided you couldn’t be involved, couldn’t go to court to assert your rights, couldn’t know your child, couldn’t see her first steps or hear her first words.  Now that you know, if you do, how do you feel about that?  Do you feel like a “broken man” the way her husband does?  Do you want to tear your heart out at he injustice of it all.  Too bad.  The courts are there to enforce her rights and desires, not yours.

In fact, in this case, as in so many cases of paternity fraud, no one gets a fair shake except Mom, who’s given everything she wants.  Her husband?  No, he’s a broken man.  He’s emotionally destroyed by her lies (she lied to him every day for 16 years), her infidelities, her manipulation of him into caring for children who aren’t his.  The three biological fathers?  Nope, not them.  Who knows what they might have wanted?  They probably would have wanted a relationship with their kids, but even if they didn’t, it was she, not them who decided.  The three girls?  No, not them either.  The only father they have now calls himself ”a broken man.”  He’s in anguish over his betrayal by the woman he once loved, and most important, his anguish is about them.  How can they possibly feel knowing that they weren’t fathered by him and now he’s an emotional wreck because of it?  Plus they don’t get to see him more than four days a month, and only that much if Mom allows it.  Do they wonder about their biological dads?  You bet they do, but that too is their tough luck.  Do they need to know who their biological father is for health reasons?  Are they more prone to any of countless diseases and medical conditions because of his genetic makeup?  Maybe so, but that too is a problem the family court won’t allow them to solve.

All in all, everyone in the whole sorry saga loses except the one person who’s the bad actor – the mother.  You’d think courts would notice, but if they do, they don’t care.  Mountains of social science, plus simple fairness and decency tell family courts in everything they do to act differently.  But time and again, the only thing judges seem to be able to see is what mothers want.  It’s a disgrace, and it has nothing to do with children’s best interests.

But every cloud has a silver lining.  With all the negative aspects of this case, I’ve neglected one thing – the educational aspect of the case.  After all, the three older children are girls and it won’t be long before they’ve become women.  And you can bet the farm that they’ve learned something from this case, something about the power wielded by mothers in family courts.  And hey, education is never a waste.

Thanks to Paulette and Tom for the heads-up.

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