Redefining what makes a parent

What makes a parent? Unconditional love and support of your children is the easy answer. Patience is for certain. But what about the law?

In most situations in order to be considered a parent by law, the child must be biologically yours or you must have legally adopted him/her. That definition of parent is changing however as more former live-in boyfriends and girlfriends are granted custody/partial custody of their ex-partners children.

In an article in the Sacramento Bee, attorney Deborah Wald said that “the courts are starting to look at parentage issues from a child’s perspective, which is a very big shift. Before, children were treated more like property. Now the courts are starting to ask, ‘Who do these children think their parents are?’ It’s a child-centered approach that relies on looking at behavior. Courts aren’t willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon.”

Recently we wrote a blog post on the “Changing View of the Traditional American Family,” and, according to the Sacramento Bee article, a court in California recently ruled that a “woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend’s children was nevertheless their parent because she acted like one.” The article said that the court considered “acting like a parent”  “providing for (the kids) financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.”

While this situation revolves around a same-sex couple, that is not always the case. The article said that courts began looking at parental relationships differently after a 2002 case that saw a woman’s former live-in-boyfriend granted custody of her child because, though he admitted he was not the child’s biological father, because “he had acted as his father since birth.”

Single parents often receive help raising their children from friends and family members, as well as current boyfriends/girlfriends, however attorney Elizabeth Niemi said in the article that “If you are a single parent, and there’s not another parent somewhere, you have to be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.”

What are your thoughts on the “re-definition of parenting?”