“And baby makes three” may need an update.
California legislators are considering giving judges the leeway to declare more than two adults as the legal parents of a child. The Sacramento Bee explains SB 1476, introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:
Under Leno's bill, if three or more people who acted as parents could not agree on custody, visitation and child support, a judge could split those things up among them.
SB 1476 is not meant to expand the definition of who can qualify as a parent, only to eliminate the limit of two per child.
Under current law, a parent can be a man who signs a voluntary declaration of paternity, for example. It also can be a man who was married and living with a child's mother, or who took a baby into his home and represented the infant as his own.
Leno's bill, which has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly, would apply equally to men or women, and to straight or gay couples.
The bill was inspired by a court case involving a child with two moms. When one mom was sent to prison and the other mom ended up in the hospital, the child’s biological father stepped forward and offered to take care of her. But the law currently states that a child can only have two parents, regardless of gender combination. Instead the child was taken by the state, according to MSNBC.
The religious right “traditional values” response is as expected: “blah blah NO GAY MARRIAGE blah blah,” even though the law could also come into play in complex heterosexual relationships.
Other objectors are more concerned that allowing for a third (or more) legally recognized parent could cause a whole host of other legal problems:
Opponents counter that the issue is complex and that allowing multiple parents in one section of law inevitably raises questions that could spark litigation in other sections.
Tax deductions, citizenship, probate, public assistance, school notifications and Social Security rights all can be affected by determinations of parenthood, notes the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists.
"This bill, in our opinion, if passed, will cause significant unintended consequences," said Diane Wasznicky, the group's president and a family law attorney in Sacramento.
Assemblyman Donald Wagner, an Irvine Republican who opposes SB 1476, noted it could spark litigation, say, in a case of a wrongful death of a child with four potential parents and determining who has a claim.
Karen Anderson, of the California Protective Parents Association, said the legislation could result in a child being bounced among multiple adults in a bitter family breakup.
"It's hard enough for children to be split up two ways, much less multiple ways," she said.
Well, that’s the first time I’ve seen lawyers complain that a new law might result in them getting more work.