Did You Know: A Child in California can have More Than Two Parents?

In 2013, the California Legislature enacted S.B. 274, ended long-established legal precedent that children in California could have only two legal parents. This law was a reaction to the case In re M.C., in which a court refused to find a child had more than two legal parents.

In In re M.C.1, a child was born to two married women, fathered by a man with whom the biological mother had a relationship before marriage.

The court found that the child effectively had three presumptive parents:

  • A biological mother, by proof of having given birth per Family Code section 7610;
  • A presumptive mother, by way of being married to the biological mother during the child’s birth per Family Code section 7611(a); and
  • A presumptive father.

Regarding the father, the court stated that under existing California law, a party could be a presumed parent under Family Code section 7011(d) if the parent received the child into his home, and openly held out the child as his natural child.

The presumptive father in In re M.C. did not meet the requirements of section 7011(d) to be declared a legal parent because he did not take the child into his home. The child lived in California while the father lived in Oklahoma. However, the court ruled that he was a “quasi-presumed” father because he was an unwed father who came forward at the first opportunity after learning of his child’s existence, but was denied the opportunity to fulfill section 7011(d) due to another person’s interference.2

Despite recognizing the child had three presumptive parents, the court noted that existing law was ill equipped to handle this type of conflict. Family Code section 7012 simply stated:

if two or more presumptions arising under section 7610 or 7611 conflict with each other, or a presumption arising under section 7611 conflicts with a claim of parentage under section 7610, -the presumption which on the facts is founded on the weightier considerations of policy and logic controls.

The court would not reverse long-time precedent stating the court could grant parental rights to a maximum of only two parents.

In response, the California legislature enacted S.B. 247, which authorized courts to find that a child has more than two parents if not doing so would be detrimental to the child. This statute is groundbreaking because it abolished the limit on how many parents a child may have. It could be three, four, or even more.

When assigning parental rights under the new law, judges are required to consider which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent(s), and the harm of removing the child from stable placement with the parent who has fulfilled the child’s physical and psychological needs, in addition to who has assumed that role for a substantial period of time.

The law also provided for child support to be paid by more than two parents if deemed appropriate by the court.

For more information on this topic, please contact Alexander Quan at 415-457-4367 or via email at alex@theshermanlawoffice.com.

Disclaimer: Law Office of Christina Sherman publishes articles about family law cases on its website for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Law Office of Christina Sherman or the individual author. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice on any subject matter. For advice pertaining to your specific case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Using this information or sending electronic mail to Law Office of Christina Sherman or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements pertaining to past results do not guarantee future results.


1In re M.C. (2011) B222241, 2nd App. Dist., Div. 1.

2See In re Kelsey S. (1992) 1 Cal.4th 816.

By |2018-03-27T16:24:48-07:00April 12th, 2017|Child Custody & Visitation, Family Law|

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