A Family Is What You Make It? Legal Recognition and Regulation of Multiple Parents
40 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017 Last revised: 11 Jan 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2017
Multiparental family structures, in which there are more than two parents, are becoming increasingly common. Thus, they defy the social and legal conception of the nuclear family. Yet, despite the growing number of multiparental families, their legal status in most jurisdictions is not recognized, leaving various issues unaddressed and potentially risking the children’s best interests. This paper examines how the legislatures and courts of California, Canada, and the U.K. recognize and regulate multiparental families. It shows that the treatment of multiparental families varies from non-recognition of any status, through regulation of the multiparental family, to the recognition of the multiparental family based on parental agreements. The paper identifies five distinct categories of multiparental family structures, and suggests that the allocation of parental status should be made possible to each of these structures. To do so, it is suggested that the allocation of parental status will not be determined by traditional doctrines. Rather, the allocation should be guided by both the intentions of the parties to the parental agreement, and the child’s best interests.
Keywords: Multiple Parents, Parent, Parenthood, Parental Agreements, California, British Columbia, England
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