When the federal Liberal government recently released its gender-balanced budget, it was big news.
It included a gender results framework and an entire section on addressing the gender wage gap, as well as more leave for families where both parents take time away from their jobs to care for their families.
While one of the dominant themes of public dialogue has been around changing standards on gender relations at home and in the workplace, the law is still catching up in some areas when it comes to the evolving nature of modern families. (Many important strides were made in the All Families Are Equal Act, which helped clarify the legal status of parents in LGBTQ relationships or who use assisted reproduction.)
Take an Ontario Superior Court case that was recently heard where two friends who have fostered a girl through Ontario’s Children’s Aid Society want to adopt the child but the Child and Family Services Act insists that there be a spousal relationship for adoptions. The case — brought by Marta Siemiarczuk, a lawyer with Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP in Ottawa (who, full disclosure, happens to be a Law Times columnist) — highlights issues and assumptions around how the law defines families.
Last year, Natasha Bakht and Lynda Collins, friends who are both associate professors at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, announced they had both been legally recognized as co-parents to a then-seven-year-old boy.
Thanks to important advocacy work by the LGBTQ community and changing social norms (later parenting, mixed families, solo parents by choice and more), lawyers say there are important legal consequences to be considered, such as when parenting agreements are being developed.
Julie Stanchieri of Stanchieri Family Law in Toronto says that in light of the All Families Are Equal Act, there are likely to be more platonic parenting agreements.
“It’s obviously something that is getting to be more and more popular, and it’s a really lovely idea,” says Stanchieri.