Best Friends and... Parents?: How these Co-Mommas have Changed the Declaration of Parentage Game
When you hear the word “parents,” what comes to mind? “Parents” is a fairly broad term when you think about it: parents may be divorced, they may be a same-sex couple, they may have non-biological children that they care for... there is any number of unique combinations that fit the term “parents.” But, did you think of two best friends acting as parents to a child? Likely not. Best friends Natasha Bakht and Lynda Collins, self-proclaimed “co-mommas,” would like you to. Bakht and Collins are colleagues, neighbours, best friends, and thanks to the Ontario courts, now parents to a seven-year-old boy, Elaan. When Bakht chose to get pregnant by way of a sperm donor, Collins immediately offered to be her friend’s birth coach. When Bakht’s son, Elaan, was born, Collins upgraded her role from birth coach to “co-parent.” Collins assisted Bakht in all aspects of raising Elaan, who was born with severe disabilities. After several years of co-parenting, Bakht and Collins decided to ask the courts to grant them an unusual request: they wanted to both be legally regarded as Elaan’s mothers, despite not living together and not having a sexual relationship with one another. In other words, Linda wanted to legally adopt Elaan. Generally speaking, this is not an unusual situation – a mother or father with a new partner may apply for a “Declaration of Parentage” so that their partner is legally considered a parent of their stepchild. Bakht and Collins’ challenge was that they do not have a sexual relationship with one another, which is required for adoption. Thankfully, this has changed with the Ontario’s legislature’s acknowledgement that today’s families can be created in unique ways. On January 1, 2017, Ontario’s “All Families are Equal Act” came into force, and it requires that “co-parents” have a written agreement prior to conception. Bakht and Collins did not have such an agreement. Bakht and Collins petitioned the court to grant their unique situation an exemption- and it worked. November 2016, the court granted Collins parentage of Elaan. This means that Linda has the same rights as any other parent. She can make important decisions for Elaan, just as his natural mother, Bakht, does. Furthermore, they are permitted to grow their family if either woman does meet a romantic partner in the future. If their relationship ever falters, custody of Elaan would be treated as any other family break up would, with custody arrangement made through courts. Natasha and Linda’s efforts have created a wonderful precedent and paved the path for a further expansion of the definition of “parents.” Do you have a close friend whom you would co-parent with? If you do, your ability to have that person declared a parent to your child just became a little bit easier, thanks to Bakht and Collins. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure of your parental rights, call us at 647-499-4888 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our experienced family law lawyers. All information in this post was found at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/multimedia/raising-elaan-profoundly-disabled-boy-s-co-mommas-make-legal-history-1.3988464.