New Law Redefines Definition of A Parent


What constitutes a family has become so varied that a new law was just passed in New York on what constitutes a parent.

Tuesday, the New York Court of appeals issued a ruling that a person does not have to have a biological or adoptive relationship with a child to be a parent.  The ruling affects custody and visitation rights.

Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam said the previous definition of a parent had become “unworkable” and needed to be updated.   Now, a person can be considered as a parent “by presenting clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and raise the child together.”

The ruling primarily affects same-sex couples and unmarried couples, reports Reuters.

Two lawsuits involving same-sex couples prompted the judge’s ruling in New York.   In the first case, a biological mother cut off her former partner’s contact with her child after their relationship ended.  The partner was denied joint custody and visitation rights because she was not a biological or adoptive parent.

In the second case, a biological mother filed for child support from her former partner.  The court approved her request, but also gave visitation rights to the non-biological mother.

Eric Wrubel, who represented the child in one of the cases, hailed the ruling, saying it would make sure “one parent doesn’t disappear because one person doesn’t like the other anymore.”

According to Reuters, New York has been a slow in expanding the definition of parenthood, “as a majority of states already recognize non-biological, non-adoptive parents.”

Susan Sommer, a lawyer for one of the two cases, who is also the national director at Lambda Legal, said, “The state’s highest court is recognizing the diversity of New York families and reversing a bitter precedent that has kept children from their parents.”

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