How Many Parents Can a Child Have?

When asked, “How many parents can a child have?” many people may think it is a trick question. The obvious answer appears to be two, a mother and a father. That answer is now changing in many states, however, as laws are passed allowing children to have more than two legal parents.

These new laws reflect the variety of family types that now exist. For instance, a law currently being considered in California would allow the granting of parental rights to a previous biological or custodial parent if a child’s current two legal parents are no longer capable of doing what is necessary to protect the best interests of the child.

Examples of situations where this may occur include when a biological parent reenters the picture after a custodial parent can no longer care for the child. It could also apply if a step-parent adopts a child, but the biological parent later steps in after something happens to the adoptive parent. Courts could also order more than one parent to provide child support.

It is important to note that the law would only apply to situations where there is a prior relationship between the adult and the child. The law would not allow individuals with no previous relationship to the child to become a third parent. Judges would make the determination on whether such arrangements were in a child’s best interests.

Critics of such a law argue it will result in increased confusion and litigation. Those in favor feel it provides a valuable alternative in the best interests of children with too few people to count on.

In addition to the measure currently being debated in California, four other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws on the books. Texas does not have such a law yet, but the trend seems to be gaining momentum.

Source: The Washington Times, “California could allow three or more legal parents for children,” Myra Fleischer, September 19, 2012

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