Waldlaw Blog

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Should Children Only Get to Have Two Parents?

We take it for granted, in this society, that children can have one parent, or two parents, but they can't have more than two. But why is this? Many children in fact have more than two parents -- children in blended families, where they live with a mom and a step-dad and/or with a dad and a step-mom, often are strongly bonded to three or four adults who play parental roles in their lives; children conceived using reproductive technologies can have at least 3-4 adults directly involved in their procreation; and children planned and conceived by groups of more than two with the intention that they all share parental responsibilities often end up with strong parent-child bonds with 3 or 4 adults. From years of adoption experience, we have learned that secrecy about a child's origins often back-fires. Having learned this lesson, I see many lesbian couples in my practice who want their children to know the children's biological father, and some who even want that person to be involved in a parental way with the child. These are two women and a man planning on conceiving and raising a child together. But I have to ask them: which two of you want to be the legal parents? The same situation is arising more and more frequently with gay male couples using surrogacy. I have seen several of these couples now where the plan is for the men to both be fathers, but for the surrogate to be a mother as well. Again, I have to ask: which two of you want to be the legal parents. I have always crafted my law practice to try to make the law fit peoples' visions for their families, instead of trying to fit people's families into the boxes already available under the law. But I'm not having any success figuring out how to make three people parents, even when they have gone into the procreation process with that explicit intent and have been able to carry it out with excellence. Cynics say that allowing children to have more than two legal parents just sets them up for more complex and vicious custody disputes when things fall apart. But not allowing them to have more than two legal parents leaves them vulnerable to losing one of their parental figures, with whom they are deeply bonded, without legal recourse. It seems to me that, in limited circumstances where the clear and documented reality is that children are being responsibly parented by more than two people, it is time for the law to recognize that there is nothing magic about the number two.


  • I so agree with you! I've been thinking a lot about this lately, probably because lately I've been thinking about and considering parenthood. When I envision having kids,at some point way into the future -maybe-, there's definitely more than one other parent in the picture(though I'm a monogamist). I don't see why it isn't more common, it seems like a brilliant idea. You could share the burden, get some sleep during those baby/toddler years and actually ENJOY parenthood. I brought it up at the dinner table with my family the other day and we all thought it would be very hard to arrange legally. I've heard of pairs of homosexual couples (two gay men + two lesbians) that have had children together and shared custody...now on the one hand we agreed that if both couples were to divorce the child/children might end up with four homes and worst-case scenario all four adults might end up wanting nothing to do with each other. On the other hand that's precisely why all parents need to be validated legally and for a back-up plan to be made in the event of such a scenario. A child deserves all of its parents.

    I wonder if there are any countries that allow for more than two guardians...I'm going to check out your other blog posts now.

    By Blogger Amanda, at 3:33 PM  

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