A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has declared that a child being brought up in a polyamorous household has three parents.
A child, known only as Clarke in the verdict, was born in fall 2018 to biological parents known only by their first names, Eliza and Bill. They sought a declaration that there is a third legal parent, Olivia, and that Clarke’s birth registration be amended accordingly.
The petitioners told Justice Sandra Wilkinson that they live in a “triad” — that each has a relationship with one another and each of their relationships is considered equal.
Bill and Eliza lived together since the early 2000s. They met Olivia in 2013, sparked a romance in 2016 and Olivia moved in with them a year later.
“Although Eliza’s evidence is that the petitioners agreed prior to conception that Olivia would have the role of parent to the child, it is unclear whether all three of the petitioners were committed to Olivia being Clarke’s ‘full parent’ prior to Eliza becoming pregnant,” Wilkinson wrote. “However, on the whole of the evidence, it is clear that at some point during Eliza’s pregnancy, the petitioners agreed Olivia would be involved in Clarke’s life as a ‘full parent’.”
Since Clarke’s birth, the petitioners shared parenting duties. The court heard Olivia was the first parent to feed Clarke after he was born.
“It is not disputed that Clarke is being raised by three loving, caring, and extremely capable individuals,” Wilkinson wrote. “Unlike many family law matters which come before the court, this is not an instance of family members taking adverse positions. The petitioners are in agreement that Olivia should be recognized as Clarke’s legal parent, alongside Eliza and Bill. It is their family makeup which brings them before the court.”
Lawyers for the Attorney General were concerned that declaring Olivia the third legal parent would open the floodgates to similar court applications. They also submitted the difference between a parent and a guardian is nominal and Olivia would not achieve “many more, if any more, substantive rights.”
“I do not accept this position,” Wilkinson wrote. “There are clear and tangible differences between being a parent and being a guardian, evidenced, in part, by the legislature’s decision to distinguish between these two roles with separate designations. A parentage declaration is also a symbolic recognition of a parent-child relationship. This difference should not be minimized.”
The judge ultimately found that there is a gap in the Family Law Act regarding children conceived through sexual intercourse who have more than two parents.
“Put bluntly, the Legislature did not contemplate polyamorous families.”
“As the petitioners point out, it is uncommon for an individual to come to court wanting a parentage declaration. In fact, in many family law cases that come before the court, parents are trying to skirt their responsibilities, instead of secure them.”
So Wilkinson ruled that Olivia is a legal parent and she ordered the birth registration be amended by the Vital Statistics Agency.
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