Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Summary & History

Family & Relationships

Legislation: Children with More Than Two Parents

STATUS: Victory, California

Most children have at most two parents, but some children have more than two people in their lives who act as the child’s parent in every way. For example, a child raised from birth by a biological mother and a non-biological father may also have a relationship with his or her biological father. In such a situation, the child may consider both adults in the home, as well as his or her biological father, to be parents. In such a case, it may protect the child’s interests to have a legally protected relationship with all three of the parental figures in his or her life.

This bill would restore courts’ ability to protect children who are being raised by more than two parents.  A recent California Court of Appeal case, In re M.C., ruled that courts can never recognize more than two parents, regardless of the situation and even if it would protect the child from harm. The court recognized that there could be cases where recognizing more than two parents would protect a child’s best interests and called upon the legislature to address this issue.

Senate Bill 274 protects children by recognizing the bonds they share with their parents. Recognition of legal parenthood also gives the child the right to support from all parents, as well as access to health insurance, benefits, and inheritance rights. Recognizing these families can also reduce the state’s financial responsibility for the child because all parents would have a financial obligation to support the child. In dependency actions, if a child has more than two parents, legal acknowledgment of those parents may keep the child out of foster care by giving the court more options for placement of the child.

The California legislature passed this bill—then called SB 1476—in 2012, but California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, explaining that he was sympathetic to the need to protect children in these families but that he wanted more time to consider the issue.  On October 4, 2013, Gov. Brown signed the bill into law.

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