Possible Updates to Family Law in California (Part One)

FamilyWhat are some possible updates to family law in California? Updates to many California family-related laws have been long overdue. Changes in social values, technology, and more have significantly changed what constitutes a “family” in our state, as well as in most of the United States. Gone are the general expectations that every family unit would include a married mother and father and their biological children. However, the California Family Code still tends to reflect the idea of the “traditional” nuclear family.

Family Law in California – Changes

One major change in California is the legalization of same-sex marriage. In June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision that made Proposition 8 legislative history. However, simply because same-sex marriage was allowed to resume in our state does not mean that the laws appropriately apply to same-sex married couples.

For example, until very recently, the Family Code still defined marriages as “between a man and a woman” and used the terms “husband” and “wife” when referring to a married couple. This language was considered by many to be discriminatory to same-sex couples. On July 7, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed abill into law that would change the definition of marriage to “between two persons” and would change the instances of husband or wife to the word “spouse.” The passage of this bill demonstrated the first of hopefully many updates to the California Family Code to address the ever-changing family make-up.

The Modern Family Act

One of the bills on the table for the next legislative session is Assembly Bill 2344, proposed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). This bill addresses the need for updated adoption laws for a non-biological parent, when they are the spouse of the biological parent. This situation is common in both instances of remarriage and instances of same-sex marriage, when one spouse gives birth to the child and the other wishes to legally adopt the child.

As the law now stands, the non-biological parent seeking to adopt the child would have to undergo an investigation by state officials, a court hearing, and would have to pay the costs for such procedures. The new law would eliminate these procedural requirements for an adoptive stepparent who is the domestic partner or spouse of the child’s biological parent. This would make such adoptions much easier, more cost-effective, and less time-consuming for married couples.

More Change on the Horizon

The above enacted and proposed changes to the California Family Code are largely in response to same-sex marriages. However, there are proposed changes to state family laws regarding other types of changing family situations, as well. We will discuss these additional family law proposals in Part Two of this article.

Because family laws may be adapted and updated, the experienced attorneys at Beck Law, P.C. always stay on top of new laws and how they may apply to each individual case. We work to help all types of family units with any family-related legal issue they may face, so please do not hesitate to contact one of our offices in Santa Rosa, Lake County, or Ukiah today for help.