New York Court Broadens Definition of Parenthood to Include Non-Biological, Non-Adoptive Parents

New York State Court of Appeals
(Photo : UpstateNYer/Wikimedia/CC)

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that non-biological and non-adoptive parents are allowed to ask for custody and visitation rights, broadening the definition of what it means to be a parent.

In its ruling, the appeals court overturned the 1991 ruling in Alison D. v. Virginia M that defined a parent as biological or adoptive.

Tuesday’s ruling came out of two custody dispute from two same-sex couples in New York.

One case involved two women who had a child together through artificial insemination. After the relationship ended, the biological mother tried to cut off her former partner’s contact with their son. The nonbiological parent sued but was denied custody and visitation privileges by a lower court based on the precedent established in 1991.

In the second case, involving an unmarried same-sex couple who had a child before their relationship ended, the biological mother sought child support from her former partner but attempted to keep her partner from being able to see her child.

In both cases, the nonbiological parent had no legal rights under the 1991 precedent.

Tuesday’s decision, written by Judge Shiela Abdus-Salaam, wrote that “the definition of ‘parent’ established by this court 25 years ago in Alison D. has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships.”

New York allowed gay marriage in 2011, followed by the Supreme Court decision in 2014 that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

Opponents express wariness over the possibility of abusive partners alleging ties to the child for the purposes of bringing the biological parent to court.

As long as “a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together,” the nonbiological, nonadoptive parent has the legal standing to request visitation and custody rights under the new ruling.

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