Men's Legal Center Discusses How Children Can Have More Than Two Parents

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Under a bill signed into law recently by California Governor Jerry Brown, children in California may be able to have more than two legal parents. This groundbreaking law is the first of its type and may change the way custody issues are decided in future California divorce cases.

Group of Kids


Up until September 2013, children in California could only have two parents. The law prohibited the family or juvenile courts from recognizing more than two parents. With the new law that will change. Senate Bill 274 (SB 274) was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to remedy a 2011 case in which two women and a man all claimed to be legal parents of a single child. The courts would not decide this question but suggested the legislature might deal with the issue, a challenge the California Assembly accepted. The governor's signature on this bill has sparked a firestorm of controversy regarding whether children can ever have more than two legal parents and, if so, what the limitations on legal parenthood should be.

The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division One case numbers B222241 and B223176, In Re M.C. appeal provides the following information:

M.C.'s mother had a domestic partnership with another woman prior to legalization of same-sex marriage. Before M.C.'s mother became pregnant, the women separated and the mother formed a relationship with a man and became pregnant with M.C. However according to the appellate court documents, after the mother became pregnant with M.C., she and her former female partner reconciled and were married in October of 2008. M.C. was born in 2009 with only her birth mother listed on the birth certificate. Later, the mother and her female partner once again separated. The mother and M.C.’s biological father reconnected and he started helping out by paying child support. In the process of the relationship changes mother started dating a new man, the mother’s new boyfriend attacked the female partner and both the boyfriend and the mother were arrested. The baby was placed in foster care. The birth mother went to jail, the female partner (or the presumed mother) was in the hospital while the father was living in another state.

The question rose: who had the right to legal custody of this child?

Under the Uniform Parentage Act, the biological mother and presumed parent have rights, but a presumed parent is not clearly defined. The courts have taken the view that a presumed parent may be a man who is married to the mother, so this assumption could, by extension, apply to a same-sex partner as well. However, the biological father of a child may also be given consideration as a presumed parent.

Ultimately, the passage of the bill to allow third parties to be recognized as parents may result in problems for fathers whose partners enter into relationships with other parties, either male or female. The professionals at the Men's Legal Center offer consultations for anyone facing a divorce, child custody or child support battle.

About Men's Legal Center

Men's Legal Center in San Diego, California is a law firm dedicated to representing men in divorce, child custody or child support matters and fighting for the rights of men in these situations. The attorneys at the firm have represented clients who have served in the military, as well as, helped husbands, fathers, and noncustodial parents deal with legal issues including divorce, child custody, child support, child visitation, paternity, domestic violence restraining orders, cross over domestic violence criminal cases and other legal matters that relate to California family law.

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Allan Candelore
since: 08/2011
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Mens Legal Center, Family Law Advocates
since: 05/2011
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