Rene deBlois would not be the most entertaining guest on Maury Povich's legendary paternity test episodes, but his story is remarkably captivating nonetheless.
At the time, deBlois wanted to help out an old friend. That friend, Nicole Lavigne, was looking for a sperm donor, and deBlois provided her and her same-sex partner with what they were looking for: a child of their own.
Apparently, deBlois agreed that he would just be a donor and that he would not play any kind of role in the child's life, be it paternal, financial, or otherwise. Now deBlois, who has filed an Application with the Court in Ontario, says he was coerced into the latter part of this arrangement and that he believes he should be recognized as the child's father and granted general and liberal access.
A trial in this matter will likely occur this fall.
The legal issues at hand may rest on the fact that in Ontario, parties to a domestic contract (other than a separation agreement) cannot agree to terms regarding custody, access, or child support.
The contract that apparently exists between deBlois and Lavigne will therefore likely not carry much weight in the courtroom, as judges have the ultimate discretion to disregard any provision of a domestic contract where they believe it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
Conversely, judges may make orders, such as one allowing deBlois to exercise access, if they deem such involvement in the child's life would be in the child's best interests.
The situation, albeit unique, can be compared to a mother who puts a child up for adoption, regrets the decision, and subsequently wants to keep the child (which, according to the Adoption Council of Canada is not possible once parental rights have been terminated).
Early signs point to the media, the general public and even Lavigne and her counsel, turning this into an issue about the rights of same-sex couples.
On the surface, this may seem logical, but in reality, this is a case about the rights of the child and the corresponding rights and obligations of the child's biological father. Will the courts uphold the contract or not? Will deBlois get to spend time with the child? Will he be obligated to support this child financially?
Whatever the result, hopefully the court sends a clear message and sets a firm precedent, as these types of arrangements are becoming more common and the Provincial government does not appear comfortable passing legislation that explicitly deals with artificial insemination, thus leaving the decision in the hands of an unelected judge.
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