Does Your Child have More than 2 Parents?

New Paternity Maze for Juvenile Dependency Courts & Family Law Courts

About 30 years ago, a law professor told me that things are always changing in the law.  He explained that the law has to keep up with changes in society, culture, norms and political views.   And as a lawyer defending a client’s rights, we have to be aware of these changes.  And like life, these changes are constantly happening.  California Family Code 7612 is adding new wrinkles to Juvenile Dependency Cases, and Family Law Cases.

In recent months, I have been involved in two separate cases where the Juvenile Dependency Court has ruled that a child has more than 2 parents.

This could have easily happened in Family Law cases, but I haven’t yet seen it happen yet.  I don’t think folks, including lawyers, are aware of this recent change in the law, and haven’t thought about how this can effect what I believe is the majority of children in California.  In order to permit children to have a legally recognized relationship with people who have been parental figures in their lives, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 274 (SB 274), which will allow children to have more than 2 legal parents. This change is codified in California Family Code Section 7612.

SB 274 (commonly known as Family Code 7612) creates complex new legal issues regarding child custody and child support, and who is entitled to appear, defend, seek custody and receive family reunification services in juvenile dependency court.  Also, anytime a child is removed from a parent, the CPS worker must offer the parent Family Reunification Services (“FR”) in order for the parent to be reunified with the child. You definitely should talk to an experienced lawyer if you think you or someone else has or could benefit from this new California law. 

The two cases I mentioned are very similar.  A child was born to 2 biological parents who were not married.  Subsequently, the couple split, and the child remained with the mother, where the biological father moved away to another state and very rarely, if ever, saw the child.  You’ve heard this story before.  A few years later, the mother became involved with another man, and they lived together for about 5 years.  The new “boyfriend” began raising the child as his own, and the couple even had two new child as a result of this new relationship  However, they never got married, (but I don’t think marriage makes a difference one way or the other for this legal analysis). 

A few more years go by, and the mother has a run in with the County Social Worker, Child Protective Services (“CPS”), also known in some counties Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) or, some variation thereof.  The CPS worker alleges that the mother or her boyfriend has abused the children.  We appear in Juvenile Dependency Court, and we claim that the older child’s “father” was the new boyfriend, and the biological father of mother’s two new children.  Initially, the CPS worker opposed this, stating the child could only have 2 parents. 

The biological father was located and appeared in the court case through an attorney, as he was seeking custody of the oldest child.  And as it turned out, mother, biological father and mom’s new boyfriend were all seeking custody and visitation of the oldest child.

Eventually, the court found, under Family Code 7612, that the child had 3 parents. Mother, biological father, and mom’s new boyfriend. This gave the new father rights he would not have had, had he been just mom’s boyfriend.  He was entitled to fight for custody, visitation, and to receive FR services from the County, which can be a significant issue.

In the second case, the court scheduled a preliminary trial on this complex issue of paternity, because it will determine if mother’s new husband, who has raised the child the last 3 years, is entitled to participate in the Juvenile Dependency proceedings! I predict, as this issue becomes more common, juvenile judges will combine this type of paternity trial with the current Jurisdiction Hearing and Disposition Hearing trials. 

The moral of the story is, before you go to court, you should decide if you want there to be 2 parents, or more than 2 parents.  This determination can have a significant impact on child support, child custody, child visitation, the right to receive family reunification services from the Juvenile Dependency Court or family maintenance services from the Court.  It may also tip the scales in terms of leverage in the Juvenile Dependency and Family Law court proceedings.  Is it parent versus parent, or parent versus parents, or CPS versus parents versus parents? 

As I write this, the permutations become mind boggling.  Are mom, new mom/s, bio dad and new dad/s all entitled to some custody and visitation, do all have an obligation to pay child support, are they all entitled to Family Reunification Services or Family Maintenance Services?   Having an experienced attorney is becoming more and more important as this new law impacts the rights of individuals with respect to children.

Just yesterday, I was contacted by an individual who wants to be recognized as the father in a Juvenile Delinquency case.  A delinquency case is a specialized case where a minor (under 18 years of age) is charged with a crime.  I can’t wait to show up in a delinquency court arguing Family Code 7612. 

Vincent W Davis, Trial Lawyer

(888) 888 6582

When you talk to me, Vincent W. Davis, you can be sure of one thing, that I am listening. Child Protective Services (CPS or DCFS) and your accusers have their story, and it is our job to make sure that your story is heard and we keep your family together. If your kids or grand-kids have already been taken, we will find the best and fastest way to reunite your family.

Call me personally - 888-888-6582 - I am waiting to hear your story now, to defend you and keep your family together or reunite you and your precious loved ones.

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