April 01, 2018 Multiparent

How Many Parents?

By: Tiffany L. Palmer

Today's families are raising children in increasingly diverse and constantly evolving family forms. Divorce, cohabitation, remarriage, LGBT marriage equality, assisted reproduction options, and other reflections of social change are producing scenarios in which children are increasingly being parented by more than two people. Sometimes multiparenting situations arise out of circumstances that develop after a child is born. A newer trend, however, one in which a family is formed with three or more co-parents by choice prior to conception, is emerging. Assisted reproduction options, for example, may result in individuals deciding together to conceive a child who will have more than two parents. How the law recognizes these multiparent families varies significantly across the country, but many legislatures and courts are responding to these social trends with legal findings that a child may have more than two parents or have two legal parents and a third person who is legally recognized as having some parental rights and responsibilities.

Formal and affirmative recognition of legal parentage comes with significant financial rights and benefits, including the right to seek child custody, Social Security benefits, and inheritance rights, and to make medical and important legal decisions for a child. It also comes with the responsibility and obligation of child support. The vast majority of states, however, still only recognize two individuals as legal parents even though, in today’s modern families, it is quite common to have more than two people parenting a child.

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