Alberta Court of King’s Bench rejects biological father’s guardianship application

The father is a stranger to the child who believes that her mother's new partner is her 'dad'

Alberta Court of King’s Bench rejects biological father’s guardianship application

The Alberta Court of King's Bench has denied a biological father's application for guardianship of a child, citing the child's best interests.

In SR v MR, 2023 ABKB 464, the biological father of a four-year-old child has filed an application for guardianship of the child, parenting and contact time with the child, and amending the child's birth certificate to reflect the father's surname.

Since birth, the child has resided exclusively with the mother and her partner. The child believed that her mother's partner was her father. She has never met her biological father. The mother opposed the father's application, arguing that the child was born due to the father having sexually assaulted her. As a result, she contended that the father is not eligible to be the child's guardian.

However, the court found that the mother's bare assertion that she was the subject of non-consensual sexual touching was met with the father's bare denial. The court found both parties equally credible. The mother failed to provide sufficient evidence for the court to prefer her version of events over the father's. Consequently, the court ruled that the mother had not established on a balance of probabilities that the child was born due to sexual assault.

The mother also argued that two guardians sufficiently support the child. The mother said the child is close with her partner and his family. She described her partner as an amazing parent. She said he is a "really hands-on dad. Really attentive. He's the rock that -- for our family." The child calls the mother's partner "dad." The mother said she wants to protect the child and not "shatter her world."

The mother's partner also opposed the father's application and said, "Just because he has been found to be the biological father of the child does not mean he is capable of raising her." Furthermore, he said the knowledge that he is not the child's biological parent has not changed his love for her.

After carefully reviewing the evidence, the court found that the mother, her partner, and his family provided the child with a loving, supportive, and stable family environment. The court accepted the mother's evidence that appointing the father as the child's guardian would unnecessarily complicate decision-making that does not serve the child's best interests.

The court further wrote in its decision, "Unfortunately, other than the father's assertion that a daughter should know who her biological father is, I have no evidence that appointing the father as the child's guardian is in her best interests."

The father has provided the court with little to no evidence about his skills, maturity, ability, and general suitability to serve as guardian. The court said it has no information regarding the father's family and children, whether there are any criminal proceedings against him, or any other circumstances that might cause concern in respect of the child's safety, his preparedness to nurture the child's physical, psychological, and emotional safety or his ability to care for and meet the child's needs.

The court pointed out that the father is a stranger to the child. The child believes that the mother's partner is her father. The court said introducing the father to the child without a therapeutic intervention would likely disrupt her physical, psychological, and emotional health and her need for stability. The court emphasized that it would also risk negatively impacting her existing familial relationships and could, without a managed therapeutic approach, cause serious long-term damage.

Accordingly, the court was not satisfied that granting the father's guardianship application serves the child's best interests, meets her practical needs or would benefit her. To the contrary, the court found that "the father's application was primarily motivated by his self-interest, namely establishing a claim to his biological child, and becoming involved in her life in a way and at a pace that is, first and foremost, convenient to him."

As a result, the court dismissed the father's application for guardianship. Furthermore, the court declined to grant the father's application for contact with the child. The father has failed to persuade the court that it is in the child's best interests for him to have contact with her. The court gave weight to the child's age, her place within a stable family network, the fact that the father is a stranger to her, the lack of an expert assessment on how to integrate the father into the child's life or at the very least, a proposed therapeutic integration plan, the father's failure to understand that his introduction to the child must proceed at a measured pace, and the father's focus on his own interests. The court said these factors strongly weighed against any form of contact.

The court accepted the mother's argument that trying to incorporate a stranger into the family would "not only be devastating but emotionally heartbreaking for the child." Ultimately, the court dismissed the father's application for contact with the child.

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