In 2013, California enacted Family Code §7612(c), a groundbreaking law, which provides that a child may have a parent-child relationship with more than two parents. Prior to the enactment of the new “three parent law,” a biological parent had to terminate his or her rights before a non-biological parent could be legally recognized as a parent. By removing the two parent legal limitation, the new law allows for, among other things, the recognition of non-biological parents in addition to two biological parents.
Family Code §7612(c) permits the recognition of more than two parents in cases where “recognizing only two parents [i.e., biological parents] would be detrimental to the child.” In deciding whether to recognize more than two parents for a child, the Court will consider all relevant factors, including the harm of removing the child from a stable placement with a parent who has fulfilled the child’s physical needs and psychological needs for care and affection, and who has assumed that role for a substantial period of time. (Family Code §7612(c)).
The law was enacted in the wake of the California Court of Appeal’s ruling in the complex and heartbreaking case In re M.C. (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 197. In that case, the child was placed into foster care after her biological mother, and the only parent listed on the child’s birth certificate, was incarcerated. The child’s biological father was virtually absent from the child’s life in a different state, and was not a presumed parent under the law because the parents were never married. The child’s court appointed counsel sought to keep the child out of foster care by arguing that the child had an additional parent: the biological mother’s same-sex partner who was married to the biological mother at the time the child was born. Although the Court was sympathetic to the need for a change in the parentage law, it concluded that the legislature would have to move first. As a result, the child was left in foster care. Fortunately, the legislature responded to the Court’s invitation to change the law so that similar tragedies need not be repeated.
This new law has application in several areas of family law, including: 1) the parentage of non-biological parents; 2) situations where existing parents are unable to care for a minor; and 3) other situations where children need the help of a third parent without termination of the rights of the existing parents.
In October 2015, Boyd Law successfully achieved third parent status for a client in one of the first cases in the state to interpret the new “three parent law.” In finding in favor of our client, the Court found that all of the criteria under Family Code §7612(c) were met.
This was truly a case that fit into the legislative intent behind the law, as the failure to recognize our client as a third parent would have been detrimental to the child. However, the facts of each case are unique. The attorneys at Boyd Law have the experience, skill, and forward thinking legal minds to achieve any results for our client, even in cases of first impression.