The continuing debate over same-sex marriage and challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act are just two examples of the country’s struggle to define family. Everyone can agree that times have changed, but whether that change is good or bad is a question for the ages. We may never reach consensus.
For the California State Legislature, one of the most recent challenges is a bill that would allow a court to recognize more than two parents for a child. The author of the bill believes the measure merely recognizes the realities of family life in the 21st Century. Surrogate births, same-sex parenthood and assisted reproduction have added new layers of complexity to child support, child custody and visitation issues in particular, and the bill focuses on them. The author is clear: The new law would not change who is or is not a parent.
Custody, support and visitation issues can be especially complicated when there are more than two parents. If the parties could not agree to terms, the court could impose a scheme that would give each party a share of the rights and responsibilities that go with being a parent. The idea isn’t “the more, the merrier” as much as it is “the more, the better the child’s chances of financial stability.” If the law recognizes more than two parents as resources in some cases, the court may be able to reduce the chances that the state will end up supporting the child.
Opponents have a number of arguments against the change. Some believe the bill is another attack on traditional family structure that will muddy the waters for everyone involved. Others point to the statutory implications of recognizing multiple parents in one section of the law while only two parents are recognized in the tax code and laws dealing with citizenship, probate matters, public assistance and Social Security, just to name a few.
Supporters counter that the primary concern of the bill is the relationships between the children and their parents — including biological parents, step-parents and adoptive parents — and what the court believes is inthe best interest of the child. Everything else may change, but the child’s best interest will always be paramount.
Source: Sacramento Bee, “California bill would allow a child to have more than two parents,” Jim Sanders, July 2, 2012