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Change in family law allows more than two legal parents

The definition of a family is evolving. The nuclear family of yesteryear consisting of mom, dad, two kids and a dog has given way to more complex family structures. A Denver County family today is just as likely to consist of any combination of moms, dads, stepmoms, stepdads and children.

While it is great that the definition of family has become more inclusive, this new flexibility is not without its struggles. A number of issues related to family law are likely to crop up, such as child custody and even hospital visitation rights, which may require the assistance of a family law attorney to work out. It doesn't help that many states are slow to recognize the reality of nontraditional families and change the laws to be more accommodating.

However, one state has made a leap into the future.

The California state Assembly recently passed a law that would allow a child to have more than two legal parents. The law specifically allows judges to recognize multiple parents when it is in the best interests of the child to do so. To be recognized under the law, the people would have to raise the children as though they were the parents' own. Stepparents and the boyfriends or girlfriends of unmarried parents would not qualify.

The law was developed as a way to provide kids with more options when it comes to caretakers. It was inspired by a case in which the biological father of a child was unable to take custody of her because she already had two legal parents, even though those parents could not care for her.

Colorado currently does not have plans to enact similar laws. There are laws in place, however, that can be used to help interested parties to establish legal custody of a child, and Coloradans in a complex family situation should be aware of their rights under current laws.

Source: Denver Post, "Assembly approves bill to allow multiple parents," Hannah Dreier, Aug. 27, 2012

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