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Last month California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have allowed children to have more than two parents.  The bill would have permitted judges to recognize multiple parents if doing so would be “required in the best interest of the child.”

California state Senator Mark Leno had proposed the multiple-parents measure, SB 1476, in response to surrogate births, same-sex parenthood, assisted reproduction and other technological and societal changes that create new possibilities for nontraditional households.  In his veto message, Gov. Brown urged more study of the bill’s potential ramifications.  The Governor believes the bill’s ambiguities may lead to “unintended consequences.”

Under the proposed bill, if three or more people who act as parents for a child could not agree on custody, visitation, and child support, a judge would have discretion to split those things up among them.  Supporters of SB 1476 believe that, when necessary, designating multiple parents could enhance a child’s prospects for financial support, health insurance or Social Security benefits, thus reducing the state’s potential financial responsibilities.  This bill did not necessarily envision giving multiple parents equal time with a child, however, stating that the minor’s best interest and stability “may mean that not all parents share legal or physical custody.”

Opponents of the bill argue that it did not adequately consider the legal ramifications of designating multiple parents for a child in other areas of the law, including tax deductions, probate, Social Security, wrongful death and education benefits.  The new law would also have required California to set new guidelines and reprogram its automated system for determining child support.


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According to a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times, there is a bill heading to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk that would allow California family law courts to determine that a child has more than two legal parents.  The law has been proposed due to the fact that family law has become even more complicated as family situations have changed.

Currently, California only allows for two partners, whether they’re a child’s biological or adoptive parents, to be legally considered that child’s parents.  Democrat Mark Leno, a State Senator from San Francisco, who introduced the bill, was spurred on by a case where a lesbian couple split up, and one of the partners subsequently broke from the relationship, turned heterosexual and was impregnated by a man.  She then returned to her former female partner but the two fought – one ending up in the hospital, the other in jail.  The daughter ended up in foster care because her biological father had no parental rights.

During the political process in California, Republicans shunned the bill, yet, it passed in both houses after attracting sufficient support from Democrats.  Opponents argue that the bill would have implications going well beyond family law courts, adding costly wrinkles in cases involving things such as citizenship, tax deductions, probate, and other matters people litigate over.  Supporters of the bill believe it would help the law to keep up with the changing landscape of a family’s nuclear foundation.