More than Two Parents Equals a Mess

More than Two Parents Equals a Mess

Jerry BrownDiane Robertson

Leave it to California to take one crazy law and turn it into an even crazier law. Children in California can now have three or more legal parents. Some may find it helpful for sharing parental responsibilities with things like doctor appointments and school activities. But are more than 2 legal parents really in the best interest of children?

This new law began with another crazy law for determining parentage. Instead of biology or legal adoption determining legal parentage in California, the Uniform Parentage Act confuses the definition of “parent” substantially. As in most states the Uniform Parentage Act allows the biological or adoptive male and female couples to be considered legal parents. However, any person who marries the birth mother before the birth of the child or takes the child into their home as their own with or without marrying the birth mother after the birth of the child can trump the biological parentage of the father. Given that the statute provides that the law should be applied in a gender-neutral fashion, a woman living with the biological mother could gain parental status over the biological father.

Then new law was written in reaction to a 2011 court case involving a baby girl, known as M.C.

M.C.’s mother, Melissa, prior to her pregnancy, was in a registered domestic partnership with a woman, Irene.  The relationship was marked by mutual physical abuse, mental illness, and drug use. The women separated within a few months after registering their relationship.  Melissa then became involved with a man, Jesus, and conceived M.C.

Jesus accepted his role as the biological father and he and Melissa lived together in his family’s home. At the beginning of the pregnancy, Melissa filed paperwork to dissolve her domestic partnership with Irene. She also sought a restraining order against Irene at this time. However, before the birth of M.C., Melissa and Irene reconciled.  Melissa left Jesus without providing any contact information.  Melissa and Irene were then married in October 2008 during the short time gay marriage was legal in California that year.

Lesbian parents, 2Because of the “marriage” and under the Uniform Parentage Act, Irene then became the supposedly second legal parent of M.C.

Melissa, Irene, and M.C. lived together after the birth for only three to four weeks. Irene filed for custody and visitation rights. Melissa obtained another restraining order against Irene, and eventually Melissa re-established contact with Jesus. Jesus then began paying some child support.

Melissa and Jesus later attacked Irene with a knife causing severe injuries. Jesus fled but Melissa was apprehended and charged as an accessory to attempted murder.  M.C. was then taken into protective custody.

The judge involved in M.C.’s case should have kept M.C. in foster care while Melissa served a prison sentence or terminated the parental rights of Melissa, Jesus, and Irene. Instead the judge asked the California legislature to fix the law so that a child could have more than two legal parents.

In 2012 the California legislature happily obliged the judge, but the Governor vetoed the bill. A few weeks ago, on Oct 4, 2013, the bill having passed the legislature a second time was signed into law by the same Governor. It is unclear what changed his mind. What is clear is that neither the Uniform Parentage Act, the Judge in M.C.’s case, the California State Legislature, Governor Brown, or the new multi-parent law have the best interest of California children in mind. All consider the whims and desires of adults above the intrinsic need of children to grow up in a home with a married mother and father.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute said, “This is in the long run going to be a mistake. The ones who are going to pay the price are not the activists, but it’s going to be children, who will see greater conflict and indecision over matters involving their well-being.”

A 2011 study on divorce and co-habitation reports that, “Not only is cohabitation less stable, it is more dangerous for children. Federal data shows that children are at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused in cohabiting households, compared to children in intact, biological married parent homes. They are also significantly more likely to experience delinquency, drug use, and school failure.”

A new study in Canada shows that children whose parents were living in a married or registered same sex common law relationship are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples.

Study after study continues to show that children are most likely to thrive, economically, socially, and psychologically while growing up in the homes of their intact, married, biological mother and father. California would do better to legally recognize what is best for children rather than legally recognizing new and more confusing family structures that only harm their well-being.

 

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