Tri-Parenting in California

Sixteen years after her daughter was born, Victoria Bianchi was legally recognized as the teenager’s parent. In fact, she became the girl’s third legal parent.


Victoria’s former partner, Kimberli Bonner, gave birth to their daughter in 2000 with help from their friend Mark Shumway. But state law at the time allowed for two legal parents, and only Kimberli and Mark were listed on daughter Madison’s birth certificate. However, the three adults were committed to tri-parenting, and Madison considered all three her parents. They share time with Madison, including holidays, and all three have input in raising her.


Victoria finally became Madison’s legal parent under a 2013 California law that says a child can have more than two parents. California is one of 12 states in which the courts or the legislature (and sometimes both) have said that children can have three parents. Victoria officially petitioned for adoption in 2016 and now has parental rights.


Legislators passed the law in response to a case where a biological father was unable to gain custody of his daughter after she ended up in foster care (her lesbian parents had a troubled relationship). Lawmakers determined that families were taking on new forms and that they shouldn’t be limited to traditional parental roles, especially when a nontraditional arrangement might be in the child’s best interest.


Is Tri-Parenting Right for You?


There are many situations in which a third person might seek parental rights. Madison’s family is a perfect example: When gay parents decide to start a family, they might need help from a sperm donor or a surrogate. If the donor or surrogate wants to be a part of the child’s life, then the three adults can choose tri-parenting.


Another situation in which tri-parenting arises is when a man believes he is a child’s father and then a paternity test reveals that another man is actually the biological father. California law would grant both men parental rights (along with the mother). Similarly, if a stepparent wants to legally adopt a new stepchild then he or she can do so without the biological parent having to abdicate their own parental rights.


There are also several ways in which your parental rights can be legally acknowledged: on the child’s birth certificate, in adoption papers or by a child support or custody ruling.


Contact Us Today


The Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, office of Charles D. Stark can help you establish and protect your parental rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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