California's Third-Parent Law

Third-Parent Law

In most states, a child can legally only have two parents. This is important because with being deemed a parent comes many rights and responsibilities to the child, such as visitation, custody, and child support. Usually, it is the biological mother and biological father who assumes these rights and duties. Sometimes, it is adoptive parents and other times, other relatives, like aunts, uncles, and even older siblings step in and take on these roles. However, with the growing population of the LGBTQ community and its leaps and bounds of progress in rights, this topic has become frustrated. California has a large LGBTQ community and marriage for these members has been legal for several years. Straight people are not the only ones who have children. Advances in science mean that even same-sex couples can now have children. Advances in the law mean these couples can even adopt in some states. So, what happens if there is a lesbian couple who has a child on accident?

Well, in California a child can actually be assigned three parents under the law, in very specific circumstances. Several years ago, a woman married her wife, and got pregnant by her boyfriend. By law, the mother, her wife, and her boyfriend all had rights and duties to the child. The law provides that any child born during a marriage, is the child of the married parties. The law also states that any child who is conceived by two unmarried parties biologically, is the child of those two parties. This pregnant woman then went to prison for a nonviolent crime. While she was incarcerated, both her wife and her boyfriend sought custody of the child. This led to the three parent law, which is reserved for situations like this, where a woman is married to a same-sex partner, but conceives a child with another partner, with no donor contract drawn up first. Now, the woman, her wife, and her boyfriend all share custody, visitation and financial obligations of the child.

The California Senate passed Bill Number 274, which provides protection for children and families by recognizing two or even more adults in a child's life can have rights and duties to the child. The bill is often referred to as "Third Parent Law," but this is actually misleading, because the bill provides no limits on the number of parents a child can have. The case this bill was born out of included two married women and the boyfriend of the mother, but other scenarios could come into play, that assign the child four or more parents, though those circumstances are rare. For example, a lesbian couple and a gay-male couple could all agree to parent a child. They would draw up a contract, detailing how it would work and the rights and duties of each parent. Then, the gay-male couple could provide the sperm donation to fertilize an egg from the lesbian couple. Once the child is born, all four parents share custody, visitation, and financial support of the child. What a lucky kid!

If you are planning to do anything like this, you should absolutely have a contract drawn up and talk to a lawyer first.

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