Was Dad Merely a “Sperm Donor and Blank Cheque?” Or Was He Eligible for Shared Parenting?
In V.P. v. D.M. the court had to settle whether the father’s purported role in his young daughter’s care and upbringing was as extensive as he imagined and whether he was entitled – and capable – of having a fuller role in her life on a shared parenting basis.
The mother, a nurse, was 47 years old. The father was 53. They met online in 2010 and maintained what was essentially a friendship. They never lived together and were never in a monogamous relationship. At some point, the mother purchased a condominium in the same building as the father. After they had a few intimate encounters, the mother became pregnant.
The mother took a year-long maternity leave, and the father visited the child regularly in the evenings after work. The mother claimed these were just visits and did not involve the father actually caring for the child. She said she did support his involvement, until it affected the stability of the child’s life and her own, and became an intrusion. They ended up having a dispute over the father’s past and future role. As the court explained:
The father’s evidence is that the mother used him to have a baby and that once that happened he was dispensable. He believes that the mother has treated him as a sperm donor and blank cheque. All he is trying to do is assert his right to be an involved father for his daughter who he loves very much. He believes that it is in [the daughter’s] best interest to spend equal time with her parents.
The father sees himself as the victim. He is a victim of the mother’s attempt to eliminate him from his daughter’s life; … he is a victim of the mother’s premeditated plan to use him as a sperm donor and a monthly cheque.
The court examined the evidence, as well as how the parties interrelated. It found the child loved both parents very much and was closely bonded to both of them. It noted, however, that a shared parenting arrangement for the now 5-year-old child would require a significant amount of contact between the parents:
Homework is forgotten, money is required for a school trip, extracurricular activities will require coordination and flexibility, arrangements will have to be made for [the daughter’s] care on non-school days when the parents are working; who buys birthday gifts for parties attended by [her], who picks out [her] Halloween costume, and who takes [her] to the doctors and fills prescriptions?
Before it could decide that a shared parenting regime was in the best interests of this child, the court had to be able to find at least the following:
- The parents could speak to one another directly and not just in writing;
- The parents behaved respectfully towards one another;
- The parents would cooperate to ensure the child’s needs are being met;
- The parents were capable of putting the needs of the child before their own;
- The parents demonstrated a reasonable amount of emotional maturity and would demonstrate that emotional maturity when there is a disagreement; and,
- The parents would behave appropriately towards one another at all times in front of the child.
In this case, the court simply could not conclude that the parents, in this case, could meet these requirements. It laid most of the blame squarely at the father’s feet.
For example, the mother was always the primary source of the child’s care; and it was now “disingenuous” for the father to claim he was an equal caregiver simply because he attended at the mother’s most evenings after work when the daughter was a baby. The court added with what seemed like veiled incredulity:
Even though the mother was solely responsible for [the daughter’s] care all day, including feeding, bathing, doctors’ appointments, napping, changing her, and shopping for her as well as caring for her throughout the night after she went to bed, the father considered himself to be equally involved in [the daughter’s] care.
As the court summarized: “The father’s visits after work do not make him a co-parent as he believes.”
Also, the mother testified that the father was extremely emotionally and verbally abusive towards her, particularly in his written communications, which were full of expletives. The court agreed they were “vile and abusive”, and noted the mother never responded in kind, but was always calm and composed when dealing with him. The father’s poor judgment was also of concern, especially since he had not participated in the counselling that had been recommended for him.
Noting the need to limit the daughter’s exposure to adult conflict, the court concluded overall that shared parenting was not feasible. It ordered that the mother should have custody, with specified access to the father, as part of the many issues it was asked to decide between these parents.
For the full text of the decision, see: