Decisions in divorce and family law previously reflected the fact that a child could only have two legal parents. As of January 2014, a new law changed the traditional perception of “family” for the California court system.
All children in California (like in most other states) were presumed to have either one or two parents. “Three parents” was not an option. That changed on October 4, 2013, when SB 274 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The new law, and the changes it makes to the Family Code, will go into effect January 1, 2014. In this article, I present the law and discuss what a child having more than two legal parents means for the courts, couples, family members, and children.
SB 274 was introduced by California senator Mark Leno of San Francisco. Officially, it is called “SB 274, Family law: parentage: child custody and support.” SB 274 amends Sections 3040, 4057, 7601, 7612, and 8617 of the Family Code.
Family Law: Parentage
Section 1 defines the law by saying, “The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Most children have two parents, but in rare cases, children have more than two people who are that child’s parent in every way. Separating a child from a parent has a devastating psychological and emotional impact on the child, and courts must have the power to protect children from this harm.
(b) The purpose of this bill is to abrogate In re M.C. (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 197 insofar as it held that where there are more than two people who have a claim to parentage under the Uniform Parentage Act, courts are prohibited from recognizing more than two of these people as the parents of a child, regardless of the circumstances.
(c) This bill does not change any of the requirements for establishing a claim to parentage under the Uniform Parentage Act. It only clarifies that where more than two people have claims to parentage, the court may, if it would otherwise be detrimental to the child, recognize that the child has more than two parents.