MORE THAN 2 PARENTS??

A legislative bill signed by Governor Brown last week authorizes a Court to find that a child could have more than two parents.

The new law, SB274, signed by Governor Brown on October 4, 2013, allows a Court to find that more than two persons with a claim to parentage are parents of a child, if the Court makes a finding that the particular child having only two parents would be detrimental to the child. In order to find that only having two parents would be detrimental to the child, the Court must consider all relevant factors, including the harm of removing the child from a stable placement with a parent who has fulfilled the physical and psychological needs of the child, and assumed that role for a substantial period of time. The new law also provides that for existing laws under the Family Code, if the child has child relationship with more that two parents, then any legal reference to “two parents" will be interpreted to apply to all of a child’s parents.

The law also states that unless a court orders otherwise, a presumption of parentage is rebutted by a Judgment establishing paternity by another man.

When a Court does find that a child has more than two parents, the Court will make custody and visitation orders among the parents based on the best interest of the child, including the possibility, if it is in the best interest of the child, to make an order that not all the parents share legal or physical custody.

Additionally, when a Court finds that the child has more than two parents, the Court will apply the statewide child support guideline amount. Yes, the additional parents may be ordered to pay child support, as well! The Court does also have the authority to alter the guideline amount if that amount is unjust or inappropriate, as usual. However, the Court is also then required to divide the child support amount among the parents based on the timeshare with the child, and each party’s income.

And lastly, the law also can effect adoptions, as it provides that the termination of parental duties and responsibilities may be waived if both of the existing parent(s) and the prospective adoptive parent(s) sign a waiver at any time prior to the finalization of the adoption.

It will be very interesting to see how this new law effects the Family Law Courts and the practice in Family Law in general. It certainly provides relief to same sex couples who have been dealing with trying to navigate around the prior existing laws and presumptions under the law regarding this topic. We live in an different world now where these types of previously “unthought of" situations require our legislature to make necessary changes to the law.

Without a doubt, this change can protect those children from losing a connection to a “parent" who loves and cares for the child, regardless of the facts of the situation or presumptions under the law.