California bill to protect best interest of the child in diverse familiesBottom Highlights, Online Only Friday, February 24th, 2012
SACRAMENTO – Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation Friday that reaffirms a family court judge’s ability to recognize parent-child relationships based on the evidence and what is in the best interests of the child. SB 1476 modernizes state law by giving courts the flexibility to protect children who have parent-child relationships with more than two people.
A California judge recently ruled that it was in the best interests of a child to recognize that she had a parental relationship with three people. Despite the judge’s finding that the child would have the best chance of stability if all the parents were recognized, the ruling was reversed on appeal because the court found that current state law does not permit such a finding.
“We live in a world today where courts are dealing with diverse circumstances that have reshaped California families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “This legislation gives courts the flexibility to protect the best interests of a child who is being supported financially and emotionally by those parents. It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents, especially when a family is in distress and a child’s security is a concern.”
SB 1476 does not change existing law that defines who satisfies the high standard of being a legal parent. It simply clarifies a judge’s ability to decide that more than two parents might satisfy the standard. It could apply in appropriate circumstances where more than two parents have participated in a child’s upbringing. It would not apply in cases where a relative or loved one, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend of a parent, has provided only periodic care for a child because current law already stipulates they would not meet the definition of a parent.
SB 1476 is sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
“A child who has been raised since birth by a mother and a non-biological father may also have a parental bond and relationship with her biological father,” said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law. “The child knows all three of these people as parents, and the law should not arbitrarily extinguish those relationships when doing so would hurt the child.”
“We know that families are formed in many different ways,” said NCLR Family Protection Project Director Cathy Sakimura. “If the law refuses to recognize some of these families, it puts children in these families at risk of the devastating consequences of losing the love and support of one of his or her parents.”
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