What is the legal definition of a parent?

You may know, in a general sense, what a parent is for any child in British Columbia. However, a legal definition must be established for family law cases, and it can be more complex than you’d think. In fact, British Columbia had never even written out a comprehensive definition until recently, to help with these cases.

Now, the definition doesn’t change things too much for most children. The biological father and the birth mother are accepted as the parents, as you’d expect. However, for those who use assisted reproduction, such as vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, the definition becomes very important.

In these situations, written agreements are needed. They specify that the donor—such as the sperm donor—will not count as the legal parent, despite the biological contribution. This is also used with surrogate mothers, who carry the children and actually give birth.

This can change in some situations. For example, a contract could be withdrawn. Additionally, a mother could stop counting as the legal mother—though she’ll always be the birth mother—if she decides to give the child up for adoption.

In these cases, the distinction that is most important is that of a legal parent, as opposed to a biological one. While the biological parent may be first assumed to be the legal parent—and this holds true in most families—these contracts can give rights to someone else to become the legal parent, perhaps stripping the biological parent of that right.

As such, it’s incredibly important to know what paperwork is needed, how to file it properly, and exactly how it can change those parental rights.

Source: Legal Services Society, “Who is a parent?,” accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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