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You and you and me and baby makes four.
February 18, 2014 6:21 PM   Subscribe

A Vancouver child has become the first person in B.C. to have three parents named on their birth certificate, under province's recent Family Law Act that features a provision permitting up to four parents.

This is not the first occurrence of this in Canada - in 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that a young boy could have one legal father and two legal mothers, making them the first official three-parent family in Canada.
posted by mhoye (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
So this is three legal guardians? Oy, the divorce here is going to get messy
posted by dabitch at 6:22 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


From the articles, it looks like a case of a bureaucracy being surprisingly humane and providing official recognition of an unusual situation. I hope it proves catching.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:32 PM on February 18 [8 favorites]


What is this world coming to, when babies can have more than two people sign up to love them and care for them and pay for their food and shelter and schooling? Balderdash, I say. Back in my day, we sometimes got by with half of one parent, and we liked it. This baby will be spoiled.

What's next with you, Canada, and the giving things to people? Before we know it you'll be letting the poor visit doctors or something.
posted by BlueJae at 6:36 PM on February 18 [34 favorites]


Hat-trick for Canada on the front page right now.
posted by gman at 6:39 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


Having been adopted at the age of 16, I would appreciate the ability to specify two mothers on my USA birth certificate rather than one replacing the other.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:39 PM on February 18 [13 favorites]


Something is incredibly depressing to me that the first comment on this is "What if they divorce lol?"

I mean yea, it could happen, but this seems like a net positive thing to me. That sounds like the kind of thing that would be a conservative talking point with a strong undercurrent of "they're freeloving hippies so they don't have a True Marriage that will last, duh".
posted by emptythought at 6:40 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't loling. I was being serious. Not in the way you assume either.
posted by dabitch at 6:43 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


what if they divorce... in all seriousness

Remarriage/repartnering and more parents. More parents to love her. If that is what happens, that is what I choose to think.
posted by oflinkey at 6:43 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


In all seriousness, dabitch, there are already plenty of scenarios where children wind up with more than two parents / guardians who have various levels of claims to custody. Consider for instance a child who has been raised by grandparents who are legal guardians, whose parents suddenly overcome whatever difficulties they had in the past and show up on the scene, or a child in an open adoption, or a child who has two bio parents and two or even (after multiple re-pairings) three or four step-parents, all of whom have participated in some way in raising the child.

Considering that they've already done a fair bit of discussion and paperwork to sort out their parenting arrangement, it sounds like this particular group of parents actually went to much, much more trouble than most people do before having kids to plan out how they might handle any changes to their relationships.
posted by BlueJae at 6:50 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


First became permitted seven years ago in Ontario- why is this news? Because BC was so incredibly late in reforming their family law?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 6:50 PM on February 18


The new Family Law Act (which bases the determination of parentage on "intent") goes into effect I think in April, so this is timely.

While I know this sort of thing (3 recognized parents) is pretty common and non-noteworthy in Ontario, I think you may find that this rather mundane concept is of interest to people living in other parts of the world.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:59 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Yay!!
posted by latkes at 7:01 PM on February 18


Heather has 2² mommies.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:55 PM on February 18 [10 favorites]


More people interested in a child's best interests. This can only be a good thing.
posted by arcticseal at 8:11 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


BlueJae, correct me if I'm wrong, but the scenarios you describe still only have two legal guardians at a time... do they not?

It's the three legal guardians at the same time here that's different. Many children have had multiple loving people as their parents and grandparents, and parents new spouses and/or lovers since the beginning of time. That is not an unusual thing. Three legal guardians at the same time is. Children usually have one, or two. (Regardless of how many people love the child.)

Three legal guardians that have a say in, for example, which school the child should attend.
posted by dabitch at 8:20 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Solomon will have to chop the kid into three pieces.
posted by XMLicious at 9:06 PM on February 18 [9 favorites]


Does a birth certificate signify custody in Canada? That's not how it works in the U.S. It doesn't really matter what your birth certificate says as far as who is legally responsible for you. This is why the issue of guardianship, which this whole thread is pretty much about so far, seems a strange focus for this to me.

The child was born to Woman 1, who is partnered to Woman 2, and was biologically fathered by Man 1. I'm not really sure that Woman 2 really fits into the whole "birth" aspect of the birth certificate, even though they can all have whatever sort of family dynamic they want, and I don't see why the child can't grow up happy and healthy with two moms and a dad, but I dunno, the biology that goes along with birth thus far still requires exactly two parents, unless there's been some new scientific breakthrough I'm not aware of. I'm sure MeFi will find me to be a horribly homophobic bigot for expressing that, but, oh well. I guess it doesn't really matter, so as long as you can still use the certificate to get a passport or school admission or whatever else you need it for, I suppose it can say anything your parents like.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:44 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


On the messy divorce question, this may actually make a divorce (or death of parents and subsequent custody questions) less messy.

Lets say you have a lesbian marriage, and dad who is part of the parenting but not the marriage.

If the marriage breaks down, under old rules, you have two biological parents, and a mom who may have trouble establishing custody in the courts.

New rule means both mom's on birth certificate, divorce = clear claim to custody for all parents involved in parenting.

Similarly say the biological parents die in a car crash. Under old law, could biological grand parents step in an claim custody to the exclusion of the other mom?

Under the new law, there would still be a birth parent alive to continue custody.

Worth reading the blog by the lawyer from this case, Barbara Findlay, who blogs about this here.
posted by chapps at 9:46 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


why stop at four? (What was the rationale?
posted by Bwithh at 10:05 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Hat-trick for Canada on the front page right now.

Canadio-centric jargon!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:16 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


Here's the actual blog post, thanks to chapps, where the lawyer Barbara Findlay talks about the issue: Family Day: The More Parents the Merrier, in BC. That post links to this leaflet (Microsoft Word format): Choosing Children.

I think this, like most innovations, will make some people's lives harder while making others' easier. Child support will definitely be more complicated, because it's hard to establish the support costs and earning capacity of more than one person at a time. On the other hand, there are probably people for whom this is a really big deal and I don't think we should rain on their parade by introducing hypotheticals that can probably be addressed at the time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:56 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Biological involvement with the child has never been required to be on the birth certificate, tylerkaraszewski. Fathers have long been put on as a matter of course if they are married to the mother. New certificates are routinely issued for adoptive children. The reason this is homophobic--not that you are, but that your position is--is that you are applying a standard to the mother's partner, here, that you would not apply to the husband of a woman who'd conceived a child through artificial insemination in an ordinary two-parents-on-the-certificate case. "Mother's partner" has routinely been there. "Biological father" has routinely been there. Now they can both be on at the same time.
posted by Sequence at 2:38 AM on February 19 [9 favorites]


This is clearly a social and not a biological issue. But I thought just for a second before I clicked the link that reproduction happened in this case like it does in marmosets . If I recall correctly, there have been documented human examples of chimera. The world is a diverse and wonderful place.
posted by cnanderson at 3:05 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


the biology that goes along with birth thus far still requires exactly two parents,

Egg from Woman 1 fertilized with sperm from Man 1 and implanted into womb of Woman 2. Biologically/DNA-wise there are 2 parents. Birth-wise, I think Woman 2 has some input.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:15 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


Note: I'm not saying this is what always happens, but it is an example where there are not strictly 2 and only 2 people involved in the birth.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:16 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I don't think we should rain on their parade by introducing hypotheticals that can probably be addressed at the time.

This stuff is all about figuring out what happens when the parade is rained on. If it never rained on parades, we wouldn't need a system of allocating rights and duties.
posted by jpe at 4:13 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Biological involvement with the child has never been required to be on the birth certificate, tylerkaraszewski. Fathers have long been put on as a matter of course if they are married to the mother. New certificates are routinely issued for adoptive children.

I don't mean to derail, but: For the record, there is a very large contingent of adoptees who don't think their birth certificates should have anyone but the biological parents on it. Amended birth certificates for adoptees--which make it look like the adoptive parents gave birth, complete in most cases with the delivering doctor info and the hospital info for the actual birth--aren't inherently a good thing, especially when one's original identity is kept a secret by the state (as is the case in 43 states in the US).
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:14 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Fathers have long been put on as a matter of course if they are married to the mother

That's so because of the presumption of biological paternity, though.
posted by jpe at 4:15 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


On the biology derail,

the biology that goes along with "birth" thus far still requires exactly two parents, unless there's been some new scientific breakthrough I'm not aware of. 

Not very "new" technologies, but in addition to the ivf with fertilized egg implanted in a mother who didn't supply the egg scenario above, and chimeras as a naturally occuring (albeit at a low rate in humans - less common than twins with different paternity if I recall correctly) phenomena in humans (not really "technology") also mentioned above, chimeras (using dna or cellular material from more than three parents even!) can be created in vitro and then implanted via ivf techniques. I would be surprised if this is certified anywhere for human application, but it is a technical possibility.

posted by eviemath at 4:39 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Off of the biology derail, while it can be useful in the long run to keep track of biological parents for medical history purposes, birth certificates are actually primarily used for legal and administrative purposes, for establishing responsibility for a child's welfare, and influencing standing for custody claims (as others have mentioned above). Thus it is much more important for them to provide a complete and accurate record of all of the adults agreeing to be responsible for a child's well-being at the time of the child's birth. At present, no documents really legally serve the medical history function (haven't there been studies about frequency of cases where the mother's legal partner, who gets listed on the birth certificate as a matter of course, is not in fact a child's biological father?). If there was a separate document that did, perhaps it would make sense to reconsider which document (if either) should be called "birth certificate", but we can cross that nomenclature bridge if and when we come to it.
posted by eviemath at 4:52 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


First became permitted seven years ago in Ontario- why is this news? Because BC was so incredibly late in reforming their family law?

The article states that it is the first time in Canada that the parents haven't had to go through litigation to be all equally recognised as birth parents. Sounds pretty costly (article estimates about $4000), and time consuming. Not to mention the emotional toll of the process!

These folks still had to reword the forms, which is unfortunate and sadly unsurprising. The fact that they are recognised as they should be with few barriers in their way is what makes this news.
posted by Violet Femme at 4:57 AM on February 19


What a lucky kid. Family recognition is so important, and this child will never have to doubt that their family is respected.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:24 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


why stop at four? (What was the rationale?

Space issues on the birth certificate template?
posted by ymgve at 6:31 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


"Remarriage/repartnering and more parents. More parents to love her. If that is what happens, that is what I choose to think."
Marriage isn't really for what happens when things go right, the point is commitment for what happens when things don't. What takes place in the event of the end of whatever combination of these legally idiosyncratic relationships is a valid and salient question, hell, its almost the only one. Its not like these aren't solvable questions, and I'm sure the Canadian legal system is grappling with them in a reasonable way, but they are important.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:12 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded of a scene in an episode of Friends, when Ben is born and Ross and his ex's new partner are trying to one-up each other over who's going to be the more awesome parent, and Phoebe is listening and suddenly cuts in and says something like "wow, this is going to be the luckiest kid ever. Some kids don't have any parents, but this kid has three parents, and they all love him so much that two of them are fighting over who's going to love him more." And then it becomes this heartwarming moment and all that.

But yeah, this is a lucky kid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on February 19


After thinking about it a little more, I think if it was up to me, I'd have two forms. A "birth certificate" as certification that a new person exists, and is recognized by the world, and a "custody certificate" to indicate who is responsible for that person until they are legally an adult. The custody certificate could as many people of as many genders as desired. The birth certificate would be immutable and never change once issued (except to correct mistakes on the original).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:25 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


Off of the biology derail, while it can be useful in the long run to keep track of biological parents for medical history purposes, birth certificates are actually primarily used for legal and administrative purposes, for establishing responsibility for a child's welfare, and influencing standing for custody claims (as others have mentioned above). Thus it is much more important for them to provide a complete and accurate record of all of the adults agreeing to be responsible for a child's well-being at the time of the child's birth.

Let me first state that I think it's great to have three parents legally recognized. I agree that it's going to be complicated, particularly with child support in cases of breakup, but that doesn't matter - if people want to be a family of three, that's fine.

But I join in the idea that no, it isn't actually a great idea to put all that on the birth certificate. Birth certificates are not just how legal status is determined, and biological parents aren't just for medical history, but also heritage and inheritance. It's important that children be able to know not just who their parents are, but who their biological parents are.
posted by corb at 9:26 AM on February 19


It's important that children be able to know not just who their parents are, but who their biological parents are.

As stated above, that's not how birth certificates operate. If a heterosexual couple uses a sperm donor, the birth certificate is just going to list the couple, for example. Birth certificates identify parentage, which is more legal and cultural than biological, and it's great that in Canada at least there is increasing official recognition of how parentage can incorporate more than just two people.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:58 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


Tyler, what would be the point of your proposed birth certificate?

You know in the current situation, husbands of the biological mother are automatically put on the birth certificate, father or not.

This is actually a less arbitrary system.
posted by latkes at 10:36 AM on February 19


Tyler, what would be the point of your proposed birth certificate?

It would establish that you were born in a particular place on a particular day, making you, for instance, a citizen of a given country who will be legally able to vote in 18/19/21/etc years?

It would serve all of the same purposes a birth certificate serves now outside of custody disputes. Think of every time some official agency has asked for a copy of your birth certificate. That's the point of it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:55 AM on February 19


As an adopted person and a person who has given up a child for adoption, some of you have a very naive view of how it's supposed to work. And by that, I mean one size adoptions do not fit all. Some of you support the biological parents on the birth certificate, for inheritance and heritage. That would be a deal breaker for some people looking to adopt and for some people thinking of giving up a child for adoption. Medical histories are provided with much more detail than they were both when I was adopted (in the early 1960s) and when I gave up a child (in the early 1980s). So that's covered. Heritage is provided as well, so you know what nationality (ies) you are part of. But if you force all adoptions to be open, you are doing a big disservice to people who should make that decision on their own.

I searched and found my birth mother and it was a wonderful experience. I am totally open to my child finding me (wasn't really discussed as an option back in the early 80s). But my adoptive brother has no interest and found my search disturbing and ungrateful and I know adoptees who look for the wrong reasons. So it's a much more complicated situation that can't be dictated by automatically putting the biological parents on your birth certificate.
posted by Kokopuff at 1:03 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


> If a heterosexual couple uses a sperm donor, the birth certificate is just going to list the couple, for example.

On my reading that's no longer the case; if the three adults have a co-parenting agreement written up before conception and use artificial insemination, both men can be certified 'parents'.

> why stop at four? (What was the rationale?

> Space issues on the birth certificate template?


On my reckoning the new BC birth certificate will require 8 'parent' fields, at most. The case: a (somehow infertile) couple intending to be parents; their sperm donor and his partner; their egg donor and her partner; and their surrogate mother and her partner, all in a co-parenting agreement.

I can't think of an example of intentional parenting where more than 8 people (as 4 couples) are eligible parents to the child.

It was interesting to read that had Wiley, Richards and Kangro chosen sexual intercourse as the means of impregnation in their parenting agreement, Richards' name would be disqualified from appearing on Della's birth certificate. The new FLA is more about identifying parents of planned children born through reproductive technology (in their case a syringe).

Therefore there's a way for small polygamous households (with syringe or given to fibs) to get their (3 or 4) names on each child's birth certificate.

Go Canada.
posted by de at 9:14 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


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