Defining Parentage:

A Review of Parentage under Part 3 of the Family Law Act

We want to hear from you

Conclusively determining who a child’s parents are is an important part of family law. It is the foundation of many aspects of a child’s identity, such as family name and relationships, nationality, and cultural heritage. Parentage can also determine important legal rights and responsibilities, such as a child’s inheritance rights.

When the Family Law Act came into force in March 2013 it gave British Columbia its first comprehensive legislative framework for the law of parentage. The goals of this legislative framework were to provide a complete scheme that addresses children equally, no matter whether the child was born through natural or assisted reproduction, to protect children’s best interests, and to promote family stability. Over the past decade there have been considerable developments in law, society, and reproductive science.

The Parentage Law Reform Project Committee has examined whether part 3 continues to meet these goals. The consultation paper contains thirty-four tentative recommendations for reform. Now we want to hear from you!

Share your comments before March 31, 2024 by
participating in our survey or by
completing the Response Booklet.

To use this response booklet, download a copy and provide your responses and comments.

Save your comments in the document. Email a copy to: [email protected]

Consultation Paper: Summary of Issues Considered

The consultation paper contains thirty-four tentative recommendations for reform. These tentative recommendations address some of the following subjects.

Diversity and inclusion

Several of the tentative recommendations focus on respecting gender and family diversity. The committee addresses important questions such as:

  • Should terms such as birth mother and biological father that are used in the Family law Act be replaced with gender neutral terms?
  • Should terms be descriptive of a person’s role in conception and birth? For example, “the person who gave birth to the child”.
  • Should the legislation allow for more than two parents, regardless of the method of conception?
  • Should agreements under part three be pre-conception or pre-birth?

Streamlining and clarifying

Over the past decade, lawyers have noticed areas of confusion and gaps in part 3. Several of the committee’s tentative recommendations address these issues. For example:

  • Should all parentage agreements require independent legal advice?
  • Should part 3 address the BC courts’ territorial jurisdiction to make orders declaring parentage?
  • Should part 3 contain a provision acknowledging the court’s parens patriae power in relation to parentage cases?

These questions are timely and important. Several Canadian provinces have undergone legal reform in this area in the past few years with jurisdictions taking diverse approaches in answering the above questions.

Decreasing barriers and costs associated with family building

The law has different rules for children conceived through sexual intercourse versus those conceived through assisted reproduction. This distinction can result in families experiencing extra costs and barriers. Several of the tentative recommendations examine this dichotomy and its continued usefulness in modern society. The committee considers issues including:

  • Should sperm donation by sexual intercourse be permitted?
  • Should the Family Law Act allow surrogacy to use sexual intercourse as a method of conception?

The committee also considers ways to reduce costs by introducing streamlined options for parentage orders. For example:

  • Should the Family Law Act introduce a simplified procedure for parentage orders when everyone has complied with the act and has consented to the order?

Learn more / Get involved

Watch this space for upcoming opportunities to get involved.

Parentage Law Reform Project Committee

The Parentage Law Reform Project Committee includes experts in reproductive health, endocrinology, fertility, obstetrics and gynecology, fertility and family law, trans- and gender-inclusive reproductive justice and psychology. The committee’s primary task is to assist BCLI in developing recommendations.

Funders

The Review of Parentage under Part 3 of the Family Law Act was made possible by funding from the Justice Service Branch, Ministry of Attorney General for British Columbia.

Related Files

Backgrounders:

Here are links to additional materials, backgrounders, research, resources, media releases and summaries that have been, or will be incorporated into our final publications and study papers.

If you have questions about these or other specific documents, please reach out to BCLI using our contact page or at the bottom of each page of our website.

Parentage Backgrounder no. 1

Introduction to the Parentage Law Reform Project

Parentage Backgrounder no. 2

Members of the Project Committee

Parentage Backgrounder no. 3

Summary

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