Parenting Beyond the Nuclear Family: Doe v. Alberta

7 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2013

See all articles by Brenda Cossman

Brenda Cossman

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2007


Doe v. Alberta considers the question of when an intimate partner of a parent stands in the place of a parent under s. 48 of the Alberta Family Law Act. Although the parties to the case, Jane Doe and John Doe, were involved in an intimate relationship, Jane Doe conceived a child by an anonymous sperm donor, and both parties agreed that John Doe would not take on any parental rights or responsibilities. When the parties wrote a contract outlining the agreement but were refused enforcement. This article examines the arguments put forward by the courts in the decision not to enforce the Does’ contract. In particular this article questions the implication of the Court of Appeal judgment that simply being in an intimate relationship with a mother would be sufficient to find that a man stands in the place of a father. This article also argues for a more robust examination of parental rights that may exist under s.7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ultimately, this article calls for decreased reliance on the stereotypical nuclear family paradigm, and a re-imagining of our family law to reflect the changing realities of Canadian families.

Suggested Citation

Cossman, Brenda, Parenting Beyond the Nuclear Family: Doe v. Alberta (2007). Alberta Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2007. Available at SSRN:

Brenda Cossman (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-6658 (Phone)

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