We all know that a child can only have 2 biological parents – a man and a woman. But we also know that biology is only a small part of the story. Every child is connected to more adults – as they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Many children are actually being raised by more than 2 parents — step parents, grandparents, friends and partners can play an important role in the financial and emotional health and life of the child.
The law often takes quite a long time to recognize what people actually do. Certainly, the big family law story in the news this year is the Supreme Court’s mandating the federal government to recognize same sex marriages. But just last week, the California State Legislature passed a bill that I believe, will also have huge implications in the future. for the first time in US history, that law allows judges to find that more than 2 people are the legal parents of a child. This is designed to be used sparingly, and only in circumstances when to limit the child to having only 2 legal parents would be detrimental. It could apply, for instance, when a divorced parent’s partner has played a large role in the life of a child, but then breaks up with the child’s biological parent. Or when a lesbian couple uses a known donor, who they want to be involved in the child’s life.
As I said, it will be used sparingly. But it is a huge breakthrough, and may open the door for the recognition of other kinds of parenting arrangements.
The last time we had a breakthrough like this was when courts began to recognize that a child can have 2 parents of the same sex. In New York, this occurred in the 1990s, and opened the path for second parent adoptions, which has provided legal rights to thousands of children to be raised by two moms or two dads. This may also provide stability and a sense of belonging to many, many children. And that, as they say, would be a good thing.