Court Orders Paternity Test in Bid to Disinherit Child
In the recent Ontario Court decision of Proulx v. Kelly the Court grappled with an interesting paternity question arising from an estates matter. The deceased had died without a will, and his only sibling (a sister) had applied to be the administrator of the estate. She wanted to prevent a young woman named Shauna – who claimed to be the deceased’s daughter – from inheriting anything from him. The deceased had been married to Shauna’s mother at the time she was born, but they divorced long ago.
The issue was whether DNA testing could or should be ordered by a court. (Apparently there was some DNA evidence still available from the deceased that could be tested.)
The matter arose under a little-used section of the Children’s Law Reform Act (“CLRA”) which allows anyone to apply to a court for a declaration that a particular male person is the father of a child, or that a particular female person is the mother. There is also a provision that allows anyone involved in a civil proceeding (such as this estates dispute) to apply to get the court’s permission to obtain blood or DNA tests, which can then be used as evidence.
However, the CLRA also contains a “presumption of paternity” section, which presumes paternity of any male who:
• Is married to the mother of a child at the time the child is born;
• Is married to the mother but has died or divorced her within 300 days of the birth;
• Is married the mother after the birth and acknowledges he is the father;
• Was living with the mother in a “relationship of some permanence” at the time of birth, or else stopped living with her within 300 days of the child’s birth;
• Took steps to certify his status as father under the Vital Statistics Act or other similar Canadian legislation; or
• Is recognized as the father by a Canadian court.
The issue was whether, for someone who satisfied any of these criteria, the presumption of paternity had to be rebutted before a court could order DNA testing.
In this case, the deceased had met at least a few of the tests: not only was he married to Shauna’s mother when she was born, but he was also listed as her father on the Statement of Live Birth. However, he never actually signed that document.
On the other hand, there was ample reason to question the deceased’s paternity of Shauna. For example:
• He never recognized Shauna as his natural daughter to his family;
• He told his sister that Shauna was not his;
• He wrote in a journal that he was resentful at Shauna’s mother because “she cheated on me with no sex protection”;
• Other witnesses gave evidence that both before and after Shauna’s birth, he and the mother fought regularly;
• There was never a child support order made for him to pay support for Shauna, and no evidence that support was ever paid by him on a regular basis;
• He saw Shauna infrequently, and almost not at all in her teenage years; and
• His sister attested to the fact that he never recognized Shauna as his daughter.
In any event, from a legal sense the court found that it could order the DNA testing without the deceased having to rebut the “presumption of paternity” provided for by the CLRA. Instead, the court had the authority to order DNA testing any time paternity was in question.
Moreover, on the merits the court found that DNA testing was warranted here, and granted leave. In doing so, it took particular note of the fact that there was almost a complete lack of evidence from the one person who would know Shauna’s paternity – the mother. It also observed that DNA testing was a minimally-invasive procedure that would cleanly bring an end to the dispute over the estate once and for all.
See the full text of the Court’s decision in Proulx v. Kelly, 2010 ONSC 5817 (CanLII) at http://bit.ly/gzVrII