Two Mommies in Divorce Mediation
Two Mommies in Divorce Mediation

New York Highest Court to Define “Parent”

The New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, is about to take up a case that may require it to define what a “parent” is. As the Wall Street Journal says on Thursday, June 2,

“[T]he case was brought by a gay woman seeking visitation rights for a young boy she says she helped raise. The suit challenges a New York state law that limits the scope of parental rights to those with a clear biological or adoptive tie to a child.

The woman who brought the lawsuit (the “Plaintiff”) argues that the term “parent” should include anyone who has played a key role in raising the child, with the support of the birth parent, even when not connected with the child either by adoption or biology. While this is, on the surface, a gay-rights case, it has move broader implications — if the Court agrees with this argument it opens the door to parental claims by a whole host of people — the nanny, the friend who looked after the child for two hours everyday after school, the babysitter.

Opponents of the ruling that the Plaintiff seeks make just that argument — it would open a pandora’s box of custody and visitation litigation and generate more and more litigation in this deeply contested area. Supporters of the Plaintiff say that the American family has radically changed and the law needs to recognize that.

There is no telling how many families this ruling would effect.

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law Williams Institute estimates that in 2013, 15% of unmarried, same-sex couples nationwide were raising children.

Stay tuned.

Fred Klarer