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Newfoundland Court Makes Landmark Ruling Recognizing Polyamorous Parents

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Newfoundland Court Makes Landmark Ruling Recognizing Polyamorous Parents

As the CBC recently reported an East coast court has made a ground-breaking ruling that affirms the parental rights of those in non-traditional families.

In Canada, polyamorous relationships – which involve three consenting unmarried adults rather than the customary two – are legal.  (They are different from marriages that purport to involve multiple parties, such as bigamy and polygamy.  These are illegal under Canadian law).

What has not been as clear, is whether and how parents who hare involved in polyamorous unions should be legally recognized. Recently, the family court in Newfoundland and Labrador had a chance to tackle this very issue.

The case involved a family consisting of two men, and the mother of an infant. The court introduced the unconventional family arrangement this way:

J.M. And J.E. are the two male partners in a polyamorous relationship with C.C., the mother of A., a child born of the three-way relationship in 2017. The relationship has been a stable one and has been ongoing since June 2015. None of the partners in this relationship is married and, while the identity of the mother is clear, the biological father of the child is unknown.

The adults went to court to have all three of them legally recognized as the parents of the child.  This followed after their failed bid to the Newfoundland Ministry of Service to have themselves administratively designated as parents; that application was rejected on the basis that the provincial Vital Statistics Act allowed only two parents to be listed on a child’s birth certificate.

In making the order in their favour, the Newfoundland family court focused on the best interests of their child, which remains the predominant factor in any family issue involving children.  It noted that the unique arrangement between the three adults gave rise to a stable, loving family, and one that certainly did not detract from the child’s well-being.

While conceding that the province’s three-decades-old Children’s Law Act also allowed for no more than two people to be named as the legal parents of a child, the court said this did not embrace the “now complex family relationships that are common and accepted in our society.”  It noted that the more narrow historical interpretation should not circumvent what was in the child’s best interests, adding that “[s]ociety is continually changing and family structures are changing along with it.”

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.