Several recent blog posts have directly or indirectly addressed the shift away from the traditional family of a mother, father, and two children to a more blended family, often involving participation from extended family members and step-parents. Other third parties can even be guardians or custodians who are not related to the parties, but help raise the children.
A recently passed California law allows for a change from the statutory two-parents-per child definition1. This newly adopted law allows that custody, visitation, and child support could be divided among three or more people as parents if it is in the best interests of the child. A similar bill was vetoed by the governor in late September, 2012 due to ambiguity and potential unintended consequences2.
In Indiana, there would have been several implications for this type of bill/law, including third party and de facto custodians who may have raised the child for a significant period of time, grandparents who have helped raise and support children, and same sex couples who may not be biologically related to the child. Currently, Indiana law defines parent for the purposes of juvenile law as “a biological or an adoptive parent. Unless otherwise specified, the term includes both parents, regardless of their marital status”3.
The California law notes that the best interests of the child would be the main consideration, and not all parents may share physical or legal custody of the child. Child support will be divided among the parents “in a manner that is just and appropriate based on income and amount of time spent with the child by each parent…”.
Similar bills have been submitted in Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia4. This shows a trend away from the “traditional” family to account for others, related by blood or not, who significantly assist in raising children and who create bonds with children that it may be the in the best interests of the children to maintain and encourage.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in exploring a trend of bills to determine “family” in the modern age. There continues to be a pattern of some exploration away from the nuclear family to allow interactions with parties who may not be a child’s “parent” under currently defined law, but who have substantially and significantly contributed to the upbringing of the child.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.