Canadian Journal of Family Law


Fiona Kelly

First Page


Document Type



In the past three decades, single mothers by choice (SMCs) have emerged as a new and rapidly growing component of Canada's single mother population. SMCs are women who choose to have a child, usually via some form of assisted conception, with the intention that they be their child's sole parent. While SMCs are part of an increasing number of non-normative family configurations in Canada, they pose some unique social and legal questions. However, unlike some other non-normative families, such as lesbian and gay families, SMCs have received very little academic attention and almost none pertaining to the role of law in their lives. In an effort to fill this knowledge gap, this article presents the findings from a small interview-based study of Canadian SMCs that explored the ways in which the pre-conception decision-making and post-birth experiences of the mothers were shaped by law. Though the law was rarely an overt presence in the women's lives, they identified three aspects of becoming and being an SMC that were nonetheless shaped by law: (i) the pre-conception period during which they were forced to navigate a largely unregulated fertility industry; (ii) when making decisions about the type of sperm donor with which to conceive; and (iii) once they had their child, the ways in which everyday activities were sometimes complicated by a legal system that assumes a two parent, biological family.