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Time to rethink family and divorce in the 21st century

The area of family law is complex, both legally and emotionally. The concept of what constitutes “family” has changed radically over the years. With so many familial permutations, the complexity of the issue increases. In California, the laws around this subject will soon be under debate in an effort to resolve the many problems faced by families going through divorce proceedings where children are involved.

Even when the family links appear straightforward, there can be disputes around who should be allowed access to the child or children of a divorcing couple. These days, however, it becomes more complex if one considers, for example, children who are adopted -- whether formally or informally -- which can lead to disputes over access or custody by biological parents. Children conceived by sperm or egg donation, may suddenly find themselves in a potential four-way split between donors and parents.

The idea of parental rights does not stop there. An individual who has been a parent to a child from their spouse's former marriage may also feel a close enough connection to their step-child to wish to continue the relationship. If so, should they be denied that purely because there is no blood link between them? Is that in the best interest of the child, assuming there are no other reasons to refuse access?

While California courts generally recognize the legitimacy of non-biological parents, not all states are in agreement this matter. With this in mind, individuals considering divorce may wish to seek guidance on such matters. For example, it may be worth investigating whether a formal adoption of a non-biological child will protect that individual's rights as the child's parent. Such guidance may also help to reduce further family law disagreements in subsequent divorce proceedings.

Source: dailynews.com, "California lawmakers look to update family law", Fenit Nirappil, July 27, 2014

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