Article By KATYA SLEPIAN
Editor’s note: The names used here are not the individuals’ real names and were provided by the court.
~ April 2021 ~ A B.C. Supreme Court judge has added a third parent for a child that already has a mother and father.
Justice Sandra Wilkinson made the decision Friday to allow Eliza and Bill, who are the biological parents of Clarke, 2, to add Olivia, their third partner, to the child’s birth certificate as a legal parent.
According to court documents, Eliza and Bill have lived together and been partners since the early 2000s. They met Olivia in 2013 and began a romantic relationship with her in 2016, and she moved in a year later.
“The petitioners are in a relationship known in the polyamory community as a triad,’” Wilkinson stated. “As the petitioners explain, to them this means that they each have a relationship with one another and each of their relationships with each other are considered equal.”
Court documents state that while it’s unclear if all three people were committed to the idea of Olivia being a “full parent” prior to Eliza’s pregnancy, at some point during the nine months all three agreed she would be fully involved. The judge said that Olivia had a “very active role” in preparing for the child’s birth, including inducing lactation so she could breastfeed.
“In fact, Olivia was the first parent to feed Clarke after he was born,” Wilkinson stated. Olivia also took four weeks off, unpaid, to be with the baby and family after birth.
WIlkinson noted that by all accounts, the triad has been living life like any other family; sharing parental duties, taking trips together, visiting all three families and adjusting their parenting due to the impact of COVID-19.
“It is not disputed that Clarke is being raised by three loving, caring, and extremely capable individuals,” Wilkinson stated. “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.”
The family found themselves before the court because the Family Law Act does not allow for a third parent to be legally added, “unless that child is conceived using assisted reproduction.” Clarke was conceived naturally.
Wilkinson did not agree with B.C.’s Attorney General, who had said that Olivia being declared the child’s guardian would achieve what the family wanted.
“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,” she stated. “A parentage declaration is also a symbolic recognition of a parent-child relationship. This difference should not be minimized.”
Wilkinson she would “declare that Olivia is Clarke’s legal parent, alongside Eliza and Bill, and that his birth registration be amended accordingly by the Vital Statistics Agency.”