There are several ways in which a person can be or become a parent in British Columbia, and a child can legally have more than two parents under the Family Law Act. There are also certain circumstances where a person can have parent-like responsibilities, without actually being a parent. Some of these ways are briefly explored below. For more detailed information, based on the facts of your specific situation, contact Peterson Stark Scott your experienced Surrey based family lawyers.

Biological Parents

If there is no assisted reproduction, a birth mother and a biological father are a child's parents.

Adoptive Parents

A person or persons can become parents by adopting a child. When an adoption is complete, an adoptive parent replaces the parent or parents from which the child is adopted, as their parents. The adoptive parents then have all the rights and obligations of a parent, including for the purposes of inheritance. In partial recognition of this reality, a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents now shown as parents of the child.

Step parents

The spouse of a child's parent, who has lived with the child's parent and the child, is considered a stepparent. This status carries some parental responsibilities including, in some situations, child support, but the stepparent does not become an actual parent. The Family Law Act sets out when a stepparent takes on the role of "parent" to a child.


A parent is almost always automatically a child's guardian.

It is also possible to become a child's guardian in certain other circumstances set out in BC legislation including, but not limited to, the Family Law Act.

A guardian is responsible for the care of the child, and for making decisions on behalf of a child or for the child's benefit. A guardian, who is neither a parent nor stepparent, will not normally be liable for child support.

Assisted Reproduction

A child can be conceived and then born by assisted reproduction. This can occur by sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy arrangements (where a female person carries a foetus to term which was conceived either with her own eggs, or those of another female person).

In the case of assisted reproduction, a donor of genetic material alone can only be the parent of a child by written agreement made before conception and if certain criteria are met.

A surrogate, on the other hand would, by default, be a parent because she would give birth to the child and fit the definition of birth mother. As a result, a surrogacy agreement is necessary for the surrogate to opt out of being a parent to the child, if the sole objective is to give birth to a child for the intended parent or parents.

The partner of a parent can also be the parent of a child in a case of assisted reproduction. Sometimes this will occur by default, sometimes an agreement prior to the birth of the child will be needed, depending on the particular circumstances.

As a result of the assisted reproduction provisions under the Family Law Act in British Columbia, a child can have multiple legal parents. This area of law is complex, and your family lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott would be pleased to discuss options and help you develop an effective legal framework in the context of assisted reproduction.