We have previously written that the accepted definition of "family" is changing in America. Factors including same-sex marriage and advances in reproductive science are pushing legal classifications into previously unexplored territory, and the field of family law is now rushing to keep up.
As just one example, a Florida judge recently ruled that a 22-month-old baby girl will have the names of three parents listed on her birth certificate. How did the judge come to rule this way? The case involves a same-sex couple, an ambivalent sperm donor and the failure to put a verbal agreement into writing.
It all started with a lesbian couple who wanted to have a child but had no luck with fertility clinics. As a last resort, the women approached their hairdresser (who was also homosexual) and asked him to be a sperm donor. He agreed.
The original arrangement called for one of the women to be impregnated and the other to file for adoption when the baby was born. Florida law does not normally recognize the parental rights of sperm donors, which was fine because the donor in this case did not originally express interest in being involved in the child's life. Shortly before her birth, however, the man changed his mind.
After a nearly two-year legal battle, the judge's recent ruling will recognize all three people on the girl's birth certificate. Furthermore, the man will have visitation rights while the two women will retain sole parental rights.
As our culture continues to change and evolve, so too will the definitions of family. While many see this change as a positive one, cases like this serve as a cautionary tale. When seeking a "non-traditional" family arrangement, it is important to work out the legal details ahead of time and in writing. Some time and paperwork now could save you significant headache and heartache in the future.
Source: Reuters, "Florida judge approves birth certificate listing three parents," Kevin Gray, Feb. 7, 2013