Della Wolf Kango Wiley Richards is known as British Columbia’s first child to have three parents listed on a birth certificate. She is the daughter of two cis-lesbians, Danielle Wiley and Anna Richards, and her father is a cis-man named Shawn Kangro. Questions about pregnancy and parenting are often complex for queer couples, and the same was true for Wiley and Richards. Insisting on a father that would not be simply an anonymous donor but also a participant in the child’s life, they chose their old friend. Legally, the couple began with a written contract that outlined each parent’s relationship to Della. According to the contract, Kangro would not have the same custody and financial responsibilities that the mothers would, but would still be listed as a legal guardian with rights to access.
Once they had figured out the details of the arrangement, they used a homestyle method, one that did not involve a clinic, to conceive Della. Under British Columbia’s Family Law Act, which came into effect in March 2013. It was the first province with legislation explicitly permitting more than two parents on a birth certificate (though the same results have been achieved through litigation elsewhere). Now, in efforts to clarify who counts as a parent as more families look to assisted reproduction, there are provisions for four parents and a potential for even more. Instead of only looking at biology and genetic connections, the law now recognizes the people who actually constitute the family while also leaving room for donors to be a part of that—so long as they sign a written agreement before conception, as was the case with Della’s three parents.
The legal recognition of the three-parent phenomena is not limited to Canada either. Florida Judge Antonio Marin of the Miami-Dade Circuit Court also allowed the names of three parents to be listed on a baby’s birth certificate. Similar to the B.C. case, there was a cis-lesbian couple and a cis-man involved. However, the circumstances differed in that there was no written contract beforehand stating the rights of Massimiliano Gerina, the donor for Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo. It became a two year court battle when Gerina started seeking rights and visitation schedules, despite Florida law dictating that sperm donors have no legal rights to the children that their sperm is used to father. However, they created an arrangement that allows Gerina to be a part of the child’s life. However, if the parents had followed a similar template to the parties involved in Della’s case, and drew up a legal contract before conception, many of the legal issues could have been avoided altogether. This is certainly something to keep in mind for queer and trans families that are thinking of conceiving. That said, hopefully soon more states in the U.S. will also adapt to recognize family structures that fall outside of a cis-man and cis-woman conceiving together, so that these restructurings of the family are not limited to court battles over rights.