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New law could affect child custody agreements

The definition of the family unit has changed drastically over the last several decades. With the increasing acceptance of same-sex couples, families in Massachusetts can be composed of two parents and a child or more than two parents. Changes in laws in other states could that have recently began reflecting this could set a new precedent in determining child custody. For example, some states are now recognizing that a child could have more than two legal parents.

At least five states now recognize the fact that a family may be composed of more than one parent. The idea behind this change is that such recognition would be rare and only used when recognizing only two legal parents could be detrimental the child in question. There are several different examples of the most appropriate use of this new legal option.

In one example, a mother separated from her child's biological father and then remarried. The step-father became the caretaker of the child; once the mother ended the relationship with the step-father, he wanted to retain a relationship with the child. In another situation, a woman in a same-sex relationship had a child by a sperm donor. Both her partner and the donor shared parental responsibilities until the biological mother decided to sever the parental rights of her same-sex partner. This new law would allow all three adults to be a continuing influence in the child's life.

The intent of laws such as this is to ensure that a child doesn't have to endure the emotional hardship of being separated from an adult he or she has always viewed as a parent and to ensure that the best interests of children are considered. The law has the potential to influence child custody agreements in Massachusetts and across the country. It could allow judges flexibility when deciding cases for families that do not conform to the more traditional mold.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, New law says a child may have more than two parents, Bob Egelko, Oct. 4, 2013

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