California Kids Can Have More Than Two Parents
California courts can now recognize more than two legal apretns for a child, under legislation signed October 4 by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The measure — SB 274 by Sen. Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat — is similar to a bill Leno carried in 2012 vetoed by the Democratic governor over “ambiguities.” Leno characterized both measures as a way to fix a quirk in the law that prevents a previous custodial or biological parent from taking care of a child if the two current parents are incapable.
“The structure of today’s families is evolving, and courts need the ability to recognize these changes so children are supported by the adults that play a central role in loving and caring for them,” Leno said in a statement. “It’s critical judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents so no child has to endure separation from one of the adults he or she has always known as a parent.”
Brown signed the measure without comment.
Some opponents of last year’s bill claimed it was an attempt to legitimize same sex marriage but were more muted this year when Leno narrowed his bill so that courts could only recognize more than two parents when not doing so would harm the child. – fixes a quirk in the law that prevents a previous custodial or biological parent from taking are of a child if the two current parents are incapable.
The bill doesn’t change the definition of a parent under California law. It applies only to situations in which more than two people meet that definition.
Generally, in California a parent is biological, adoptive or foster. Guardians or grandparents or stepparents also are considered parents under the law.
Leno’s bill last year would have allowed a court to rule that a child has three or more legal parents – as long as doing so is required to protect the child’s best interests.
The bills were sparked by a May 2011 appellate ruling, In re M.C., which involved a same sex couple and their child’s biological father.
The father, who had never denied paternity, sought custody when the couple couldn’t care for the child but was denied by the appeals court, which overturned what it called the “novel finding” of the juvenile court that the child, in fact, had three parents – a biological mother and father and a custodial mother.
That win for the father in juvenile court was appealed by the two mothers. The appellate court said that “substantial evidence supports the parentage findings but the juvenile court’s work is incomplete.” The case was sent back for reexamination.
Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia already recognize that more than two people can have the legal responsibility of parenting a child.
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