Parentage project committee continues its review of court declarations of parentage

31 August 2021

By Kevin Zakreski

At this month’s meeting of BCLI’s Parentage Law Reform Project Committee the committee continued its review of section 31 of the Family Law Act, which deals with the court’s powers to make an order declaring parentage.

Since section 31 came into force, it has been the focus of many court decisions under part 3. There are questions about its reach, as court cases have considered whether declarations of parentage may still be made on an alternative basis: the court’s common-law jurisdiction to protect children (what lawyers call its parens patriae jurisdiction).

The committee particularly focused on section 31’s two conditions, which provide for an order “if there is a dispute or any uncertainty as to whether a person is or is not a parent under” part 3 of the act. The committee considered how other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, and other law-reform projects, such as the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, in its Uniform Child Status Act (PDF), have handled orders declaring parentage.

The committee also began a discussion of how the best interests of the child should figure into decision-making under part 3.

The committee plans to continue discussing these topics at its next meeting. The goal is to develop tentative recommendations to reform part 3 for a public consultation to be held later in the life of the project.

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