As we have discussed on this blog before, California allows a child to have more than two legal parents. With the rise of assisted reproduction and wider recognition of non-traditional family units, it is growing apparent that children may receive substantial physical and emotional care from more than two people.
In California, the Martinez v. Vaziri case concluded that a child’s biological mother, biological father, and third person—the man who cared for the child and was the child’s only father figure—could all claim legal parentage. The case’s holding was grounded in a California statute (Family Code Section 7611) that allows children to have more than two legal parents if recognizing only two parents would be detrimental to the child.
Now, New York has stepped up to the plate in a case involving a polyamorous family. After a lengthy custody battle, a judge awarded custody of a child to three different people. When the child was born, the three people had been involved in a longstanding intimate relationship. Two of the people were married, and the remaining person lived next door. The married woman (Wife) could not conceive, so the family decided that the married man (Husband/Father) would impregnate the third woman (Mother), and the family would raise the child together. Ultimately, Mother gave birth to a boy, but then, Wife and Husband/Father got divorced while Wife and Mother continued their relationship. Even though Wife continued to see her son during his custodial time with his biological mother, Wife wished to formalize her own legal link to the boy.
Concluding that the child viewed both women as his mothers and would be devastated if any of his three parents were removed from his life, a New York judge granted parental rights to Wife, Husband/Father, and Mother. Unlike in California, this decision is not grounded in a statutory right to have more than two parents, but the case evidences an emergent shift in the judiciary’s interpretation of what constitutes a family unit.
If you have any questions about establishing your child’s legal parentage, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri—we can help you understand and secure your and your child’s legal rights.
Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.