Presumptive Parents – It May Take Two or More in California
Remember Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book, “It Takes a Village”?
It seems California Family Law Courts will now play by that theme, when circumstances warrant such consideration. Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 274 recently, which allows the state to legally recognize more than two parents for a child.
This will only happen in certain situations, specifically, when recognizing only two parents is in some way detrimental for the child – family law courts will take into account health, welfare and safety to determine whether or not a child is best left in custody with Parent A, Parent B, Parent C or D, or placed in foster care.
Necessity of Recognizing Multiple Parents
The senate bill was written largely in response to a rather bizarre 2011 Dependency Action in which a child, known as M.C., was conceived by Melissa and Jesus in 2008, but was born when Melissa was married to her partner Irene in 2009.
The two women have a volatile history of substance and physical abuse – Melissa previously sought dissolution of her domestic partnership to Irene and a temporary restraining order, months before they married. Melissa also suffers from bipolar disorder and depression.
Jesus acknowledged and demonstrated responsibilities for M.C. before she was born, but did not assert parental rights or responsibilities after her birth in 2009. Melissa married Irene in 2008. Several weeks after the birth of M.C., Melissa moved out again, taking the baby with her.
Irene filed a request for child custody and visitation, and joint legal and physical custody of M.C. Melissa obtained another restraining order against Irene, and then approached Jesus for financial help, which Jesus gave, along with requests that M.C. visit his family regularly.
In September of 2009, Melissa’s new boyfriend Jose attacked Irene with a knife, critically injuring her. Melissa was charged as an accessory to attempted murder and M.C. was placed in foster care, despite Jesus’ attempts to obtain custody.
This situation prompted SB 274, so that more than one parent can be recognized to prevent detriment to a child. Given the evolving definition of family, the new law makes sense in protecting the best interests of children.
Child Support, Custody & Paternity in California – Where Do We Stand Now?
Senate Bill 274 does not change the requirements for establishing parentage under the Uniform Parentage Act of 1973 – it merely gives Courts the option of recognizing more than two parents when necessary. The best interest of the child is the focus here, to include physical, emotional and financial considerations.
Under this new bill, child support obligations can be divided among all of the parents, based on their individual incomes. Visitation rights may also be divided to include a third parent. Joint custody between two parents will be the preferred option, but a third individual can now be factored into the equation.
The bill will give Family Law Courts a bit more flexibility in doing what’s best for the child.
Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Child Support and Custody lawyer in our Family Law Practice Group. Contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.