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Children's issues: Children's rights when parents aren't married

The family dynamic looks very different today than it did decades ago. No longer is a family unit limited to a married man and woman who then have children. Many heterosexual couples are having children before they get married -- if they ever get married. As for children's issues -- what does that mean for the rights of children born out of wedlock? Under family law in British Columbia, as in the rest of the country, those rights the same as those of children whose parents are married.

Regardless of whether the child is born to married or unmarried parents, both parents have to sign the birth registration form in British Columbia unless one or both are incapable of doing so. If the father isn't known or doesn't acknowledge the child as his, the child's mother can sign alone. If the mother signs alone, she can decide the child's given and surnames. When the parents don't agree on the last name, the child's last name will be a combination of the parents' surnames hyphenated or combined in alphabetical order.

When parents are living together, British Columbia law stipulates that they are both guardians of their children. If a parent never lives with his or her child, he or she is not considered a guardian of the child. But that parent can apply to the court to become a guardian.

Laws around children's issues in British Columbia can get pretty confusing. It often takes a lawyer who is experienced in these laws to untangle the complex bits and explain them to a client in a way they make sense. A lawyer may be able to help a biological parent who isn't married to his or her partner to come to some understanding of the law in relationship to his or her children.

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