Having More Than 2 Legal Parents: How California is Different

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsCalifornia is the only state which legally recognizes the right of a child to have more than two parents.

This holds a lot of implications.

Let us say A and B were in a happy marriage, and together, they had a daughter, whom they named C. But A and B began drifting apart and decide to call things off. Following their divorce, the court awards custody of C to A.

A decides to test the waters again, and marries D this time.

To C, B remains a legal parent. In short, she now has three parents – A, B and D. All three have equal claim to her.

When C grows up, she will have a claim to B’s fortune if the latter dies without leaving a will.

Another scenario is when A and B cannot have a child together. They go in for the IVF method, and the embryo is implanted into the womb of a surrogate mother, say S. While A and B are the biological parents, S is the natural mother, according to California law. So all three – A, B and S – are parents of the child.

A near-combination of these two instances occurred recently when Hollywood actor Jason Patric (you might recognize him as the male lead in Speed 2: Cruise Control) was named parent of his biological son, who was conceived through IVF.

Patric was involved with Danielle Schreiber in the late 2000s, but the two called it off in 2008. However, Schreiber desperately wanted to be a mother, and Patric convinced her that she should choose his sperm.

Their son, Gus, was born through In-Vitro Fertilization in 2012.

A family court awarded Patric custody of Gus for six months in a year, with Schreiber having custody for the remaining six months.

Schreiber is unmarried at present, but should she choose to marry someone other than Patric, Gus would have three legal parents.

What this means for you

If you are considering using the services of a surrogate mom, make sure the contract is iron-clad. If not, the surrogate mother could very well claim parentage over your child, citing her rights as the natural mother.

If you are trying to have a child through IVF, have an attorney review the contract that you sign with the clinic. In case of any mix-up, i.e. they use someone else’s sperm or eggs, you don’t want to lose your child to a stranger.

To learn about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.