As California parents no doubt realize, the roles of a mother and father these days are very different than they used to be. These days, parents are more dynamic and there are more family law issues to deal with. There are many divorces and second marriages. Additionally, now that states are beginning to recognize same-sex marriages, children likely have a number of parental figures in their lives. Legally, however, California currently limits the number of parents a child is granted to two.
A recent bill was announced that would expand the limits and rights of parental figures in a child's life. Today's family looks very different and may include surrogate mothers, reproduction procedures that involve many different people and more same-sex couples. The bill would legally acknowledge the parental rights of these qualified people in order to protect a child.
One specific case that has been cited involved a child who was put into foster care after her legally married mothers could not care for her any longer. The biological father attempted to gain status as a legal parent in order to keep the child, but a court could not allow this because the child already had two legal parents. Even though he had a biological relationship to the child, the father had to watch as his child was sent to foster care.
The new bill would remedy this problem. It would not change the definition of a parent, which is important to note. Instead, it would allow more than two parents to be legally recognized in the courts. Many people believe that the change would have a very positive effect on children in these situations, since many of them already recognize more than two parents.
Potential parents would still need to legally qualify as a parent under the new bill. All parties who wish to be identified as a legal parent would need to agree on issues such as custody, visitation arrangements, and child support. The same responsibilities taken on by two parents currently would be split between all parties under the terms of the new law.
If this becomes a law in California, we would be among a handful of other states that legally recognize more than two parents.
Source: ABC News, "My Three Daddies: California Eyes Multiple Parenting Law," Susan Donaldson James, July 3, 2012