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What do you think makes a parent?

A current custody battle occurring in New York highlights the challenges sometimes faced in family court. The custody battle involves a same-sex couple and a child adopted after the couple split up. One parent believed she was adopting the child on her own while the other believed she had a parent relationship with the child.

A bitter custody dispute ensued and continues to work its way through the courts. The parties, their attorneys and the courts understand the importance of the decision which will ultimately affect who can be designated a “parent” for the purposes of New York family law. 

 

The main reason that this case is so intriguing is that it could either narrow or broaden the definition of “parent.” By narrowing the definition, parents in unmarried same sex relationships – which often rely on adoption, surrogacy and other alternative methods for having children – may be impacted.

By broadening the definition, parents or significant others in same sex and other types of relationships – a step-parent, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a nanny – may petition to be determined a “parent” and therefore have the right to sue for parenting rights including parenting time and decision-making authority.

The court is stuck between making a decision based on what is in the best interests of the children, but first has to get past the difficulty of defining a “parent.” In this case it is largely dependent on the perspective of each party who each has very different ideas about what transpired with the adoption before, during and after the break-up.

Ultimately, decisions like this one are likely to continue to challenge our laws and how we define a “family” and a “parent.” It may be that we cannot come up with one simple definition for each situation. It may be that every unique case will be controlled by the facts of that specific case, based upon the best interests of the child. 

What do you think makes a parent?

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