When Legal Child Custody is Shared Between Three or More Adults

third parent child custodyThere are challenges to the new social reality of child custody. State and federal law has had to adapt to keep up with the changes in the structure of families in recent decades. Previously, a child was assumed to have two parents: a father and a mother. Today’s families have evolved to have multiple adults who might be considered parent. So, what has been the response of California’s legislature? It determined that any legal references to a child’s parents apply to all of the people that a child views as parents.

Purpose of the Custody Law

In limited situations, children have several people in their lives whom they view as parents. When couples, whether heterosexual or same-sex, use assisted reproductive technologies, (ART), they may share parenting responsibilities with biological parents. In rare cases, grandparents, aunts, or uncles may thrive in parenting roles. The California Legislature has found that when these individuals demonstrate that they parent a child in every way, it could be damaging to a child’s psyche to force a separation in the event of a divorce. The law grants shared custody among all people who qualify as a parent in these circumstances.

Custody Cases That Work for Kids

In one situation, two women, Bonner and Bianchi, with the help of their male friend, Shumway, decided to collaborate to have a child. Madison, 16 years old now, considers all three adults to be her parents, addressing them as Mom, Dad, and Mama. All three individuals participated in raising Madison and making parenting decisions, thriving in a tri-parenting relationship.  However, the law recognized only the biological parents at the time. Finally in 2016, Bianchi was granted legal parenthood to Madison, as well. Now all three adults have legal rights and responsibilities related to Madison.

Benefits of the Custody Law

Acknowledging the third parent in situations like Madison’s is a way for the law to support modern families. This can occur by allowing for a third name to be present on a birth certificate, by allowing legal adoptions, and by making allowances for the third parent in custody hearings.  Can it get complicated? Certainly. The courts are starting to recognize that families can get messy. Ultimately, protecting children should be the focus of any court rulings.

Challenges to the New Social Reality of Child Custody

Unfortunately, many states do not recognize California’s liberal granting of parenting rights.  Although it may not be in the best interests of a child, if parents move out of state, the security of California’s legal findings may be at risk.

Family Custody Issues

If your family is non-traditional, the law is beginning to recognize your rights. In the event of a divorce, complex negotiations may be necessary. Regardless of your circumstances, the experienced legal team at Beck Law will go to bat for you. If you live in Mendocino County, Sonoma County, or Lake County California, contact us in Santa Rosa for a confidential consultation today.