Fiona Kelly, “Multiple-Parent Families Under British Columbia’s New Family Law Act: A Challenge to the Supremacy of the Nuclear Family or a Method by which to Preserve Biological Ties and Opposite-Sex Parenting”

Working Abstract

On 18 March 2013, British Columbia became the first Canadian province, and one of just a handful of jurisdictions in the world, to permit a child to have more than two legal parents at birth. Section 30 of the new Family Law Act permits a birth mother, her partner and a donor, or intended parents and their surrogate, to enter into a pre-conception agreement that all three individuals will be legal parents of any child conceived. Section 30 is a groundbreaking provision in a number of regards. First, it serves as legislative acknowledgment of the changing nature of Canadian families at a general level, while providing specific recognition of the types of parenting arrangements commonly found within the lesbian and gay community. Second, it disrupts the supremacy of the nuclear family by treating multiple-parent families as functional, socially valuable, and capable of meetings children’s needs. However, the section has significant limitations. It can only be used in instances of assisted reproduction, requires the couple to be married or in a marriage-like relationship, is only available to additional parents who share a biological or genetic link to the child, appears intended to limit the number of parents to three, and lacks any guidance for parties who experience conflict. In fact, as this article argues, it is possible to interpret section 30 as a tool by which to shore up biological ties and opposite-sex parenting in an era in which both are in decline.

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