Bill Singer, Esq.

Judges Starting to Uphold Co-Parenting Agreements

In a groundbreaking decision, on February 22, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court found that a co-parenting agreement between two unmarried people is enforceable and is in the best interest of the child. As a result, the court held that the agreement governs the couple’s relationship with the child.  The court recognized that through such a co-parenting agreement a legal parent could surrender her constitutional right to raise a child and share it with a non-legal parent.

While this case only applies to Kansas citizens, it is a significant change in judicial attitudes to co-parenting agreements.  Previously, in other states, courts have found co-parenting agreements to be unenforceable and non-binding. (At best, an indication of “intent” of the parties.)

The Kansas case will serve as a positive precedent which could be persuasive for judges asked in the future to give deference to co-parenting agreements reached by two or more adults to share the rights, responsibilities and joy of raising a child together.

People considering having and raising a child together, but who are not married or in another form of a legally recognized relationship, should read this decision as further proof of the importance of setting forth their understandings about the child/children in writing.  If a non-biological, non-legal parent wants to assure that her or his rights will be respected and protected, it is imperative for all parties to consult with competent counsel to memorialize their intents.

Bill Singer, Esq.

Known Sperm Donors Are Now “Sexually Intimate Partners” In California

Another day, another new piece of legislation recognizing modern families! The governor of California recently signed a new bill into law that would define known sperm donors and sperm recipients as “sexually intimate partners” – even when the donor and the recipient have not had sex with one another. The new definition of “sexually intimate partner” in California is defined as “a donor to whose sperm the recipient has previously been exposed in a nonmedical setting in an attempt to conceive.”

What does this mean for parenting partners in CA?  This is significant given the current FDA requirement that sperm needs to go through rigorous testing before it can be used at a medical clinic to impregnate a woman.  More specifically, it means that women who attempt at-home inseminations with their donor, but then find they need medical assistance to conceive (by IUI or IVF), can use their same donors without an additional level of testing, since the donors will already be classified as the women’s “sexually intimate partners” even though they’ve never had sex.

You can find the language of the legislation here.

Bill Singer, Esq.

What is a “De Facto” Parent?

In modern family life, there are many examples where more than two adults can function as a child’s parent. While this has historically happened after divorce and remarriage with a step-parent, the rise of parenting partnerships has also created situations where a child may receive love, care and attention from multiple parenting figures.

When it comes to parental figures who are not recognized as a child’s legal parent at birth, what rights and responsibilities do these adults have in relation to the child?

Despite the proliferation of instances of multiple adults acting as parents, the law is only starting to get up to speed in recognizing these family situations. Some courts have developed the concept of a “de facto” or “psychological” parent recognizing that a third adult may also be entitled to the rights and responsibilities as a parent.

In Delaware, for example, the legislature passed a “de facto” parent law establishing that a person who meets certain qualifications will be considered a parent. The California legislature is now considering legislation which would recognize an additional adult as a parent under certain conditions.

Generally for an additional adult to be considered a parent, three criteria need to be met:

1)     The relationship between the de facto parent and the child must have been created with the consent and support of the other parent or parents;

2)     The de facto parent must have exercised parental responsibility for the child; and

3)     The de facto parent must have acted in that role for a sufficient amount of time so that a parent-child bond was established.

Once those criteria are met, the de facto parent is legally seen as an equal parent with all of the resulting rights and responsibilities.