Multiple Parents/Multiple Fathers

9 J.L. & Fam. Stud. 231 (2007)

34 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2015

See all articles by Nancy E. Dowd

Nancy E. Dowd

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: 2007


Multiple parents, especially multiple fathers, are a social reality but not a legal category. The assumption that every child has, or should have, two, but only two, parents remains a core operating assumption of family law. Yet at the same time, our knowledge of the existence of multiple fathers, whether birthfathers, stepfathers, psychological fathers or other categories, has found some reflection in cases that have granted some relational rights to fathers who do not fill the single place allotted for "legal father." In this Article, Professor Dowd proposes that it is time to think not if, but how, to recognize multiple fathers within the broader need to recognize multiple parents. Additionally, Professor Dowd explores how multiple-parenthood, and particularly multiple-fatherhood, might work. The author determines that the general principle of multiple-fatherhood is supported by the channelling function of family law, as well as the law's role to support affirmative cultural change. Part I of this Article looks at the context of fatherhood. Part II suggests the range of possible models of multiple-fatherhood, and advocates a model of shared but unequal coparenting with a core father. Part III considers some issues regarding implementation of this model. Professor Dowd concludes by returning to the law's channelling function and measuring the law's role in relation to culture.

Keywords: family law, channelling function, social institutions, parental rights

Suggested Citation

Dowd, Nancy Elizabeth, Multiple Parents/Multiple Fathers (2007). 9 J.L. & Fam. Stud. 231 (2007), Available at SSRN:

Nancy Elizabeth Dowd (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352-273-0930 (Phone)
352-392-3005 (Fax)


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