New law could restructure families; aid non-traditional couples

West coast lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would radically change the way that the American family is structured, at least in that state. a State Senator has proposed legislation that would allow courts in his state to recognize more than two people as the legal parents of a given child or children. This change could be applied to both non-traditional couples as well as other family units. The law has not yet made it to a vote, but the concept of augmenting the American family may be welcome news to many same-sex couples in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

The bill is a reaction to a case that has made its way to a state appellate court. The case involved two women who were raising a child together. When one woman was incarcerated and the other hospitalized, their child entered the foster care system. The child’s biological father attempted to gain custody of the child, and was granted custody in a family court proceeding.

That decision was overruled, however, when the appellate court ruled that California courts can only recognize two people as parents. Parental status can be gained through biological ties, adoption, or recognized legal contracts, such as in gay partnerships. However, when more than two persons fit the legal description of ‘parent,’ the courts are placed in a difficult position.

Those in support of the new law claim that it would allow the courts to use common sense and to apply the best interests of the child approach in determining issues of custody. Opponents argue that the legislation is aimed at non-traditional couples, and would comprise yet another blow to the traditional family structure that is already perceived as being under attack. One thing appears certain; citizens in Massachusetts and across the nation will watch closely as this proposed law makes its way through the legislative process.

Source: The Washington Times, “Calif. lawmakers mull adjusting family structure,” Cory Brown, July 4, 2012

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