A recent California child custody case shows how the state is redefining who it deems a child’s parent. Typically, the courts have given custody to a child’s biological or adoptive parents. But since 2002, groundbreaking child custody cases have looked at who the child considers the parent and who is carrying out the parenting duties. The main objective is that the courts want a person who is financially supporting the children and providing for their wellbeing. As a progressive state, California child custody cases involve not only straight couples but gay couples who also provide a strong foundation for children in the middle of a divorce.
“The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” said Pacific McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine in Sacramento.
In the latest case of assigning the parent child custody, a woman who did not adopt her ex-girlfriend’s kids was ruled as their parent because she provided for them monetarily, tended to them when they were sick and even volunteered at their school. Plus, she could not adopt the children as she was in the Air Force and did not want to violate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was only recently lifted. Because she was carrying out the parental responsibilities and rights, she was now deemed their parent.
Child custody decisions are, therefore, looking more at who is truly functioning as the parent. Adults who do not have blood ties or adopted a child used to be classified as “legal strangers”, but if they are carrying out the role of a parent, courts will want to keep what is in the best interest of the child. A child-centered approach versus a child as property mentality is what the courts are shifting too. Who do the children rely on? Who do they think their parents are?
This can have a big impact on not only child custody, but matters of child support. The state wants to side with whom will provide the best health, education, and home environment for the child if both parties cannot agree on joint custody. The courts really take each decision on a case by case basis, as no two scenarios are exactly the same. The biggest constant is that they will rule in the best interests of the children. An experienced child custody lawyer can help the individual who seeks child custody to create an agreement that upholds what is best for the children and takes into consideration all the actions they carry out for the children.
Gerald A. Maggio is an Orange
County divorce attorney, in Irvine, California. The Maggio Law Firm specializes in divorce and family law. To learn more about Orange County divorce lawyer, Gerald A. Maggio, visit Maggiolawfirm.com.