Tri-Parenting: A New Trend in Family Law

If you thought family law was complicated, wait until you hear about a new trend that has swept across 12 states and DC: tri-parenting.

Like its name suggests, tri-parenting is when three parents have legal rights to a child. Most frequently, tri-parenting has been seen in cases where same sex couples have a child with a friend (a sperm or egg donor) who also wants parental rights. It has also been seen in cases with men who want to remain in a parental role after a DNA test shows that another man is the biological father.

Prior to giving three people legal parental status, family courts would designate one of the three parents as a “psychological parent”. However, this would not allow that parent to have legal rights in cases of custody and child support.

Because these cases are so new, there are few legal paths to follow. In most states with cases regarding tri-parenting, families are dealt with on a case by case basis, with no case law to guide the way.

Although tri-parenting has had legal success in twelve states, only California and Maine have enacted laws to protect three parent families.

While the children in these cases benefit because they have a larger support system as they grow older, tri-parenting has its critics. Aside from conservative family groups who believe in the “traditional” family model, others believe that having three parents will cause too much chaos and a lack of stability for the child.

Please contact our experienced family law attorneys if you need help with your tri-parenting case, or any other family law case.

Credit: Jayelind Donnelly, intern at Brown, Paindiris & Scott, LLP

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