Community Parenting

Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, Vol. 24, p. 47, 2007

32 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2008 Last revised: 21 Mar 2022

See all articles by Laura T. Kessler

Laura T. Kessler

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: December 20, 2007


This article explores the question of whether a child may have more than two legal parents currently, what I call "community parenting." Primarily it seeks to understand why, at a time of increasing recognition of non-traditional families, the more-than-two parent family is so widely agreed to be undesirable, even while so many people practice alternatives to the two-parent nuclear family norm. Part I reviews social science research demonstrating the prevalence of community parenting, and shows how political discourses surrounding divorce, cohabitation, single parenthood, and same-sex marriage systematically mask the extent of community parenting in our society. Part II examines the law's response to community parenting, highlighting the degree to which the numerosity requirement that a child shall have no more than two parents is assumed and enforced in our law. Part III presents several arguments for lifting this limitation. Among other potential benefits, recognizing more than two legal parents holds significant potential to deconstruct traditional gender and sexuality norms. Part IV briefly reviews a number of legal reforms that might follow were we to lift the numerosity requirement with regard to parenthood.

Keywords: family, custody, feminism, feminist legal theory, de facto parents, race, welfare, queer theory, grandparents, sexuality

JEL Classification: J12, J13, J16

Suggested Citation

Kessler, Laura T., Community Parenting (December 20, 2007). Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, Vol. 24, p. 47, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Laura T. Kessler (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 South University St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-9697 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)


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