As family law lawyers, we can act for clients in any family court proceeding. In the context of fertility law and trying to start a family, the two common court applications are for:
Adoptions (NOTE: We only do private, family adoptions. We do not do public / foster care adoptions, or international adoptions)
What is an application for a Declaration of Parentage?
With proper planning, a family court application for a Declaration of Parentage should not be necessary. However, there are many cases where family find themselves in a situation where they brought a baby into this world without having all of the legal ducks in a row, so to speak. In these cases, it may be necessary to apply to Court (either as a joint application or as a contested application) for a Declaration of Parentage pursuant to the Children's Law Reform Act.
A Declaration of Parentage works both ways. The Court has the authority to declare whether someone IS a parent and whether someone IS NOT a parent.
Who might need a Declaration of Parentage?
The spouse of a birth mother (regardless of gender)
The sperm donor, who donated his sperm through sexual intercourse did not enter into a sperm donor agreement prior to conception (i.e., a declaration that the donor is not a parent)
If the intended parent's were unable to obtain the surrogate's consent prior to the birth of the child (i.e., a declaration that the surrogate is not a parent)
Declaration of Parentage and the law
M.L. v. J.C., 2017 ONSC 7179 (CanLII)
Synopsis: This appears to be the first reported case following the amendment to the Children's Law Reform Act, declaring the spouse of a birth parent to be a parent. The new legislation recognizes the spouse of a birth parent if, at the time of conception, they were spouses unless there was some proof that he spouse did not want to be a parent (or withdrew consent before the child's conception). The Court found that Mark and Jane were the biological parents and Samantha was also a parent, as she was Jane's spouse at the time of the conception.
Declaration of Parentage in the media
Lynda M Collins, Are You My Mother? Parentage in a Nonconjugal Family, 2018 31-1 Canadian Journal of Family Law 105, 2018 CanLIIDocs 11031
Groundbreaking family: Two women, one boy and a legal precedent, CTV News, Published Tuesday, February 21, 2017
What is an Adoption?
An adoption is a formal change of legal parentage. As opposed to a declaration of parentage (where a Court determines whether or not someone is a parent), an adoption is where a non-parent legally becomes a parent. Once the adoption is complete, it severs the legal "parent-child" relationship with the former biological parent. This can be a very emotional and difficult decision for the biological parent being declared essentially a non-parent moving forward.
There are many forms adoptions, but Great Expectations only does step-parent or relative adoptions.
A relative adoption is where, let's say, an uncle adopts his niece and nephew, perhaps following an untimely death of the biological parents. Another example is where someone already has a family and then had an unexpected pregnancy. The person might let their sibling or cousin adopt the child.
A step-parent adoption is where one parent is the biological parent and his or her new spouse wishes to become a legal parent of their step-child. As noted above, this could be emotionally difficult for the other biological parent.
Another common form of adoption is a "Public Adoption". This is where a prospective parent or parents adopt a child from our foster care system (e.g., children that are in the care of a Children's Aid Society). This is a much more complicated process than a relative or step-parent adoption, as it requires a mandatory homestudy and PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) training. Despite it being more complicated, there are many many children that need a "forever home", and could benefit greatly by being in a loving and stable home. Great Expectations does not offer services for public adoptions or international adoptions.
Where the child has a pre-existing relationship with his/her biological parents, sometimes the parties to an adoption will negotiate an Openness Agreement. This is an agreement that allows continued contact between the child and the biological parent(s).