Mother keeping baby from father

Is it legal for an estranged wife to keep the details of a birth secret from the father? The couple is married but separated, the wife/mother refuses to communicate with the husband/father. She has now given birth. What can the father do if she continues to be completely noncommunicative? He doesn't know any details about the birth/child, hasn't seen the baby... Obviously, it is not known what she claimed at the hospital upon giving birth.

Asked 7 months ago in Ottawa, Ontario
Categories: Criminal Law  Family Law

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John  P. Schuman, C.S.

Answer by John P. Schuman, C.S.

VerifiedOntario lawyer

Ontario Family Court Judges generally have a very dim impression of parents, mothers or fathers, who deny their children the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents.  Section 16(10) of the Divorce Act requires that judges give children of married parents the maximum possible contact with each parent that is consistent with the child’s best interests.  Section 20(1) of Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act says that, until decided otherwise, parents are equally entitled to custody of a child.  A significant exception to this is when one parent leaves the child in the care of other parent at separation.  Section 20(4) of the Children’s Law Reform Act say that by doing so the leaving parent gives the other parent temporary full custody of the children.  This section may not apply in a situation where the separation occurred prior to the child’s birth and the leaving parent was never given the opportunity to leave the child. Even for very young children, especially infants, current research says that frequent contact with both parent is ideal to allow the children to form a relationship and both with both parents.  Current social science research also shows that it is important for children to develop attachment to both parents.  Young age is not necessarily a reason why a child should not be spending overnights with both parents, but what is most important is frequent contact with both parents and having both parents actively involved in caring for the child, not just visiting. One parent refusing to allow the other parent to have any contact with a young child is a situation where it is possible to get an emergency family court order.  This in unfortunate because there is also good scientific research the exposing children to parental conflict can cause children to suffer brain damage.   Those effects can be long lasting and serious.  To avoid that damage parents should first try parenting mediation, with a parenting professional, before going to court.  The parenting professional can help the parents understand the children's needs and help them work out a parenting plan that best suits the child's needs at each stage of development.  If the other parent will never agree to mediation, it is still important to propose it because judges get angry at parents who refuse to try to work out things for the kids without a fight.   But, if a parent is denying a child the opportunity to have a relationship with both parents, it is time to go to Court. You can learn more about the family court process, how to start a family court proceeding, and what to do at each step by listening to the Ontario Family Law Podcast episodes on the Family Court process.   You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of child custody, moving with the children, child support, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback But, it is always best to discuss your situation with a top family law lawyer to get advice that is specific to your situation.  

Posted 6 months ago

John Schuman is a Certified Specialist in Family Law.  He is the partner managing the Family Law Group at Devry Smith Frank LLP, a full service law firm located near Eglinton and the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Learn more about John! Call him at 416-446-5080 or 416-446-5847 or email Listen to the Ontario Family Law Podcast!

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice to you. Legal advice pertaining to your particular situation can only be provided by a lawyer who has met with you to obtain all pertinent background information necessary to give you a formal legal opinion. For formal legal advice, hire a lawyer (many give a free first consultation). Contact John P. Schuman, C.S., or search the Lawyer Directory.

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