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Defining a father under family law

It is said that any man can be a father, but not every father can be a dad. On the flip side of that coin, not every dad is actually a father. The distinction between a biological parent and a nurturing caregiver, and corresponding obligations the roles encompass, may be less clear cut under family law than one might think. For evidence, one need only look at a case recently ruled on in Alberta's western neighbour.

A husband and wife welcomed a baby boy in March 2009. They raised the child together until, at some point, the man found out the child was not his. In a written separation agreement from 2012, it is clearly stated there were no children resulting from the marriage. Divorce followed in 2014, and the woman and child moved west to B.C., leaving the man behind. Though no attempt at a relationship occurred after that point, the woman suddenly served a claim for child support 18 months later.

On the surface, it may seem as if a non-biological parent has no legal obligation to support another person's child. Family law, however, says otherwise. The judge for this case said the man had stood in place of the real father, and as the de facto father, he was responsible for the financial welfare of the child. However, because his ex-wife fooled him for an extended period, and because she inexplicably came after her former husband for money and not the actual father, the judge denied support, and ordered the woman to pay his legal bills.

Though some family law issues in Alberta are reasonably easy to resolve, many are not. Rulings on family matters can have long-lasting repercussions, so it is generally best to be prepared and have skilled representation. A lawyer who practices family law may be able to help, no matter the issue.

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