Can a child have three parents?

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Spacers's picture
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Can a child have three parents?

When Leslea Newman released her landmark children's book, Heather Has Two Mommies, about non-traditional families in 1989, it sparked a national uproar.

But what if Heather had three mommies? Or two mommies and a daddy? Or two mommies and two daddies?
Could any of those family situations be legal?

That's the question being raised by California State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) in a new bill that would eliminate the rule stating only two people can be legally be considered the parents of any one child.

"We live in a world today where courts face the diverse circumstances that have reshaped California families," said Leno in a statement. "This legislation gives courts the flexibility to protect the best interests of a child who is being supported financially and emotionally by those parents. It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents, especially when a family is in distress and a child's security is a concern."

Leno argues that the bill is intended to give judges more flexibility when dealing with parent-child relationships and the custody, visitation and child support issues that often arise when there are more than two parental figures involved.

The measure doesn't expand the current definition of what qualities as a "parent." It simply allows for that definition to apply to three or more people--something that could easily become an issue in cases of surrogate parents or if a non-blood relative voluntarily signs a legal statement of parenthood.

The senator hopes that the bill could, in certain cases, easier facilitate children moving into a functional, loving home instead of being forced into the foster care system if both biological parents are unfit.

The decision that a child should legally have more than two parents is one that will ultimately be made by the courts, and the bill instructs that it should be done only if it is in "the best interest of the child."

Unsurprisingly, Leno's measure has raised the hackles of some Christian groups who advocate for a rigid definition of what constitutes a family. The Sacramento Bee reports:
[INDENT]Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, blasted Leno's bill as a new attempt to "revamp, redefine and muddy the waters" of family structure by a leader in the drive to legalize gay marriage.
"It comes as no surprise that he would try to say that a child has more than two parents--that's absurd," said Lopez, whose group calls itself a leading voice for Bible-based values.
[/INDENT]LGBT and children's advocates, on the other hand, have cheered Leno's proposal. "A child who has been raised since birth by a mother and a non-biological father may also have a parental bond and relationship with her biological father," said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children?s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law. "The child knows all three of these people as parents, and the law should not arbitrarily extinguish those relationships when doing so would hurt the child."

The bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee earlier this week and will soon be headed for vote for the full Assembly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/california-multiple-parents-bill_n_1644613.html

Good idea? Bad idea? Why or why not?

Spacers's picture
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I have to admit that I'm intrigued by this. It makes me sad when a loving step-parent, especially one who has been the primary caretaker of a child for many years, loses all rights to that child in the case of a divorce. Or when a lesbian couple and their sperm donor decide to all raise their children together as a united family, but only two of them can legally be parents, one has to be left out. Or when a child gets put into foster care because both his parents are incapacitated in some way and his mom's boyfriend, who wants to care for him and has the means to properly care for him, isn't legally allowed to take him. The proposed law specifies that the addition of legal parent(s) must be in the best interest of the child.

OTOH, I can see potential for abuse, especially for fathers. Fathers already get short-shrift in our court system, being forced to pay child support after a one-night-stand when the mother decides on her own to have the child and when they aren't even allowed to help raise their child. I can easily foresee women like that trying to get multiple men -- her steady boyfriend in addition to her one-night-stand -- to be declared legal parents if it means more likelihood of collecting child support.

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I have no problem with this. I dont want my children to have more then 2 parents, Dh and I work very hard on having united front. I do hope though that in cases of pural marriage all the sister wives can be given parent status.