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Ontario Government Introduces Bill to Strengthen the Legal Status of All Parents

Boy walking with two men in a park. Image shot 2012. Exact date unknown.

Ontario Government Introduces Bill to Strengthen the Legal Status of All Parents

It’s a legal differentiation that most people in Ontario will not have faced or even considered: But until now, if a parent is not biologically related to his or her child – for example a partner in an opposite-sex or same-sex union where the child was conceived using assisted reproduction – the laws of Ontario have required that partner to take formal steps by making an application to legally adopt the child.

However, this may change under the newly-introduced provincial Bill which would implement the All Families Are Equal Act, 2016. That legislation, if passed, would ensure that all couples who use assisted reproductive technologies, whether straight or same-sex, are automatically recognized in law as the parents. No extra applications or court orders are needed.

The law would also cover those parents who use surrogates, provided:

• The surrogate and the intended parent(s) received independent legal advice, and have also entered into a written pre-conception Surrogacy Agreement.

• The surrogate provided written consent to give up her parental status, both before conception and again seven days after the birth of the child.

The proposed changes also implement new rules for determining a child’s surname, in the event that there is a conflict between the parents, and makes changes to the existing provincial Children’s Law Reform Act and the Vital Statistics Act. It also tidies up other statues, in order to use more gender-neutral language, which is a particularly welcome update since some of them have not been amended since 1978.

The upshot is that this proposed new Act aims to clarify and simply the legal status of parents, and add certainty in the face of custody and access disputes should they decide to separate. Arguably, it will especially benefit those parents in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) community, where the legal rights have not always been clear. Across Canada there are similar Bills already passed (in British Columbia) or in the works (in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec),

Does this proposed Bill offer much-needed legislative clarity, as the legislators suggest? What are your thoughts?

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com.