This was only a matter of time:
In the first decision of its kind in Canada, all three adult members of a polyamorous family have been recognized as parents of a child.
Two months ago, Justice Robert Fowler of the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court (Family Division) in the case of Re C.C., decided the adults would be named as parents of the child born within their three-way relationship.
I predict a full-on campaign to bring all aspects of polyamorous relationships on a legal par with monogamous marriages before too long. Those puff-pieces have been buttering us up for something, you know.
In the introduction to his decision, Justice Fowler described the unconventional St. John’s household:
“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 three adults brought a court proceeding asking to be recognized as the parents of A. after the Newfoundland Ministry of Service refused to designate them as parents, saying that the Vital Statistics Act allowed only two parents on the child’s birth certificate.
What always surprises me about these stories is how short the timescales are. Quite often middle aged women write about finally finding the love of their life two months ago. In this case, the kid is less than two years old, the relationship only three, yet it’s described unequivocally as “stable” by a judge. In terms of marriage and a family, that’s a blink of an eye.
In his ruling, Fowler observed that “the child, A., has been born into what is believed to be a stable and loving family relationship which, although outside the traditional family model, provides a safe and nurturing environment…. I can find nothing to disparage that relationship from the best interests of the child’s point of view…. To deny this child the dual paternal parentage would not be in his best interests.
Why? How is it in his interests to create future ambiguity? What, exactly, is the threat to his interests which arise from having the biological father on the birth certificate and the live-in boyfriend excluded? And does the child not have the right to find out who his biological father is?
It must be remembered that this is about the best interests of the child and not the best interest of the parents.”
The fact the judge has to labour this point suggests it’s a lot less obvious than he thinks. From where I’m sat, the birth certificate is being used more to describe the romantic arrangements of the mother at the time of conception than provide useful information as to who the child’s parents are.
Unlike bigamy and polygamy — which involve marriage ceremonies between the participating parties — polyamorous relationships are not prohibited by the Criminal Code.
At this point one wonders why polygamy is still illegal.
Boyd’s research found that people who identify as polyamorous, typically “reject the view that sexual and relationship exclusivity is necessary for deep, committed, long term relationships with more than one person on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only on aspect of their relationships.”
Similarly, second-hand car salesmen think they’re honest, journalists think they’re brave, and BBC comedians think they’re funny.
There is little doubt the recognition of three parents will be the least legally complex aspect of polyamorous relationships. Family law legislation across Canada now recognizes only one spouse’s obligation to the other. Current legislation will be difficult to apply in polyamorous relationships, especially if new partners become involved in the relationship and the relationship later breaks down.
All the more work for lawyers and judges, then. Kerr-ching!