This week it was reported that Ryan Phillippe's ex-girlfriend, Alexis Knapp, is pregnant and has been informing people that the child is Ryan's. While sources have said that Ryan does not know if he is the father, but that he is willing to take a DNA test when the child is born to determine whether the child is his or not and will support the child if he is the father.
What would happen if the parties lived in Ontario?
Pursuant to s. 8 of the Children's Law Reform Act (CLRA), there is a recognition in law of parentage. An individual might turn to this section of the CLRA when she is seeking child support for a child where there is a dispute over who is the father of the child. Section 8 specifically states that unless the contrary is proven, there is a " presumption that a male person is, and he shall be recognized in law to be, the father of a child in any one of the following circumstances:
- The person is married to the mother of the child at the time of the birth of the child.
- The person was married to the mother of the child by a marriage that was terminated by death or judgment of nullity within 300 days before the birth of the child or by divorce where the decree nisi was granted within 300 days before the birth of the child.
- The person marries the mother of the child after the birth of the child and acknowledges that he is the natural father.
- The person was cohabiting with the mother of the child in a relationship of some permanence at the time of the birth of the child or the child is born within 300 days after they ceased to cohabit.
- The person has certified the child's birth, as the child's father, under the Vital Statistics Act or a similar Act in another jurisdiction in Canada.
- The person has been found or recognized in his lifetime by a court of competent jurisdiction in Canada to be the father of the child."
In addition, if a party was disputing his parentage, an individual could ask the Court for leave to obtain blood or DNA tests of the potential parent in order to submit the results into evidence for the purposes of determining the parentage of a child in question.
In this case, from the limited information known from the news reports, it seems as through Ryan is denying that he is the father of Alexis' child until it is proven otherwise by a DNA test after the birth of the child. Therefore, it seems unlikely at this point that Alexis would have to resort to the Courts to determine the parentage as Ryan is at least saying that he is willing to participate in a DNA test when the child is born. Furthermore, it has been reported that Ryan will take responsibility and support the child should it be determined to be his. If the news reports are wrong, or if Ryan changes his mind when the child is born, Alexis would be able to turn to the Court to assist her in determining whether Ryan is the father and therefore, responsibility for supporting the child financially.
In Canada, the Child Support Guidelines presumptively determine the amount that is to be paid in support obligations. The determination of the quantum of support payable, as per the Guidelines is generally based on the following:
The number of "children of the marriage"; as defined by the Divorce Act, or the dependants to be cared for when the Divorce Act does not apply; and
- The payor parent's line 150 income as per their annual Income Tax Return.
In this case, if the child is determined to be Ryan's child, he will be responsible for caring for providing financial support on a monthly basis to Alexis for the care of the child as the child will likely be living primarily with her.
It should be noted that the Courts do have some discretion to vary the amount of monthly child support to be paid if one of the following applies:
- The child is over the age of majority;
- The payor parent earns more than $150,000.00 per year;
- Where the child resides with each parent for more than 40% of the time; or
- If the amount to be paid would cause an undue hardship on the payor parent;
Ryan is a well known actor in Hollywood and therefore it is fairly safe to assume that his income is quite high each year. As starting point for the purposes of utilizing the Guidelines Table, his annual income as stated on line 150 of his Income Tax Return would be used. Since it is likely that his annual income on his Income Tax Return is well over $150,000.00, if the court considered that the amount as determined by the Guidelines Table is inappropriate in the circumstances they may order an amount that encompasses:
- the amount as outlined by the Guidelines Table for the first $150,000.00 of income;
- the amount the Court considers to be appropriate having regard to the condition, means, needs and other circumstances of the child and the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the support of the child; and
- the amount for any special and extraordinary expenses for the child.
As it is likely that Ryan makes in excess of $150,000.00 per year, a Court might consider, that a strict approach in using the Guidelines Table amount is inappropriate and instead determine a figure which it believes to be closer to what Ryan should be paying to support his child each month. It is difficult to estimate the figure that an Ontario court would consider appropriate in this situation, however, in light of the circumstances, it would probably award an amount that is much higher than an average Order would be.