Having More Than 2 Legal Parents: How California is Different

Posted 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.

Legal Issues Regarding Surrogacy

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

California Family Law Attorneys; California Divorce MediatorsThe role of a surrogate mother involves carrying and giving birth to a child that belongs to a couple who are unable to conceive in the natural manner. The importance of surrogacy lies in the fact that it is a natural process and includes the same procedures as that in pregnancy. Surrogacy has become an important method for giving birth to a child for mothers who are unable to become pregnant. But surrogacy is not as simple as it sounds. The process involves many ethical and legal issues that must be accepted by parents before they can go for surrogacy. One of the most important things concerning surrogacy is determining who the true parent of the child is. There have been cases where the surrogate mother became the primary caretaker and legal guardian of the child they were carrying. It can be a nightmare for hopeful parents especially mothers to see someone else become their child’s legal guardian.

Rights of a surrogate mother

Every couple who plan to opt for surrogacy should understand the legal rights a surrogate mother is entitled to after she gives birth to the child. In the eyes of the law, the person who gives birth to the child has the right to become the legal mother. Before surrogacy takes place, a legal contract is signed but parents should bear in mind that surrogacy arrangements can be changed anytime. The surrogate mother has the legal right to keep the child if she wishes to.

Parents who want to avoid complications and unwanted problems should first understand each and every aspect of the Surrogacy Arrangements Act of 1985. Next, they should consult with a good family lawyer who has experience dealing with legal issues in surrogacy and parenting.

Obtaining parental rights

Parents need to obtain parental rights before the child can be legally theirs. It might seem odd that biological parents need to apply for a parental order but that is how the law works. The order states that all rights and obligations must be passed down from the surrogate mother to the intended parents. There are certain conditions before a parental order can be made. One of the conditions requires at least one of the parents to be biologically related to the child. The application must be made within six months after the child is born.


Surrogate mothers enjoy many legal rights over the child and can very well become the legal mother. Couples who want their child to be born through a surrogate mother should therefore read and understand the laws regarding surrogacy.

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