Multi-parentage has arrived. In recent years, a growing number of courts and legislatures have recognized that a child may have more than two legal parents. A number of significant societal, medical, and legal developments have contributed to the trend toward multi-parentage recognition. The traditional family structure of a married different-sex couple and their biological children currently represents only a minority of U.S. families. Stepparents, non-marital partners of legal parents, and extended family members often play a significant role in children’s lives, and it has become increasingly common for same-sex couples to welcome children into their families. In addition, advancements in assisted reproductive technology have made it possible for a greater number of parties to play a role in a child’s conception. At the same time, the law has expanded both the categories of individuals who are eligible to establish parentage and the mechanisms through which parentage can be established. While the trend in favor of multi-parentage recognition is clear, the boundaries of multi-parentage remain largely unsettled. It is imperative that in drafting their multi-parentage laws, states carefully consider how to address a number of important questions. These questions include, for example, whether each of the child’s existing legal parents must consent to the establishment of multi-parentage, what (if any) cap should be set on the number of individuals who can establish legal parentage, and how to avoid imposing a hetero- and bionormative family structure on LGBTQ+ families. After providing a detailed analysis of the complex issues involved in each of these questions, the Article sets forth a number of proposals regarding how states should address these critical questions within their multi-parentage laws.
The Boundaries of Multi-Parentage,
SMU L. Rev.