A bill under consideration by California lawmakers would allow children to have more than two parents.
The bill, SB 1476, introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (D) from San Francisco, amends California’s current two-parent-per-child law to allow for several of them to protect the best interests of the child.
The additional parents would have to meet a court-established definition of a parent, according to Leno.
“The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee.
The bill is not meant to expand the definition of who can qualify as a parent, but rather to eliminate the limit of two per child, he said.
Leno said inspiration for the bill came from a 2011 state appellate court case in which a young girl had two mothers. When one of the mothers was sent to prison and the other was hospitalized, the girl’s biological father wished to care for her.
The court, however, ruled the biological father could not be a legal guardian because of California’s current law allowing only two parents per child.
The state took custody of the child.
Leno said the law would have limited application in California and is similar to legislation already present in other states – Delaware, Maine and Pennsylvania – and the District of Columbia.
SB 1476 passed in the Senate in late May and is scheduled to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on July 9.
Groups in opposition to the legislation, such as the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, claim the bill would create confusion in the minds of children.
For example, ACFLS President Diane Wasznicky said it would create an exception to California’s formula for child support payments.
Benjamin Lopez, a legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, also blasted Leno’s bill as a new attempt to “revamp, redefine and muddy the waters” of family structure in the drive to legalize gay marriage, he told the Sacramento Bee.
Under the proposal, families with three or more parents would share custody, financial responsibility and visitation for the child, based on a judge’s determination of each parent’s wealth and the time spent with the child.
The legislation does not place any limit on the number of recognized parents a child could have, although, Leno called the possibility of a child having five or six parents “laughable.”
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