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Could children have more than two legal parents one day?

Though the legislation would not have affected parents and families in New Jersey, California's Senate Bill 1476 is still an intriguing case of what may happen in the future. SB 1476 sought to allow courts and judges to legally recognize more than two individuals as parents for a single child. According to the state senator that wrote the bill, this would allow for a third person who had previously acted as a parent to be considered for custody when the best interests of the child deemed it necessary.

Family law would likely become more complicated if such a law were passed. It was recently vetoed by the governor of California. In his vetoing statement, the governor noted that he does care about the future of children, especially when there is an adult willing to care for the child as she or he already has in the past, allowing the child to avoid foster care. But some experts believe that the law is too ambiguous and could result in unintended consequences. This means that with some modifications, the law could be passed in the future.

Many family law attorneys wanted to see the bill turned into law. This is because of the many situations that did not exist a year ago. The family, as an entity, is becoming different as time goes on, thanks largely to technology that has allowed for surrogate births and assisted reproduction.

These techniques often involve a third person that may be considered the biological parent or birthing parent, depending on the circumstance. For example, say a couple cannot give birth because doctors have warned the woman that birthing a child could cause her to die. Instead of risking her life, the woman can ask a friend or loved one to carry her fertilized egg.

Now, there are three adults involved: the biological mother, the biological father and the surrogate mother who will birth the child. If all three are involved in the child's life and the biological parents are no longer able to care for the child, should the surrogate mother be able to pursue custody? If SB 1476 were passed, she would be able to do so. Instead, the child may go into the foster care system.

Source: Washington Times, "California bill allowing more than two legal parents vetoed," Myra Fleischer, Sept. 30, 2012

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