Family Structures and Canadian Family Law

AuthorJulien D. Payne,Marilyn A. Payne
Date25 July 2022
Chapter 1
Family Structures and
Canadian Family Law
e term “family” does not have a precise legal def‌inition. Law tends to regu-
late the rights and obligations of individuals, as distinct from groups, such
as families, however they may be constituted. Canadian family law might
more properly be called the “law of persons” insofar as it concentrates on the
rights of individuals whose family relationships have become dysfunctional.
In short, Canadian family law deals primarily with the pathology of family
breakdown and its legal consequences.
People oen perceive “marriage” and “family” as synonymous, but these
words are not interchangeable in law. e term “family” is elusive and def‌ies
exact def‌inition. Many, but not all, Canadian families are the products of a
marriage. More oen than not, the presence of children signif‌ies a family
relationship. Children may be born within or outside of marriage. eir par-
ents may or may not live together. e parents may have lived together before
or aer the birth of the child, but may no longer do so by reason of separation
or divorce. Some children are adopted. In relatively rare situations, a child’s
birth may have resulted from surrogate parenting arrangements or the use of
new reproductive technologies. Children are usually family members of the
household in which they reside but this is not invariably true. Some children
do not live with either of their parents or with aunts, uncles, or grandpar-
ents. ey may live in foster homes or even with friends or neighbours. A new
de facto family may co-exist with the family of origin.
Family relationships can exist when there is neither marriage nor a
parent– child or ancestral relationship. Unmarried couples of the opposite

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