New York top court expands definition of ‘parent’

[JURIST-Alexandra Farone] The New York Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the definition of “parent” under a section of the state’s Domestic Relations Law [S. 70, text] should be expanded, in a decision that will serve to better accommodate same-sex couples. Because the previous legal definition of a parent “has become unworkable when applied to increasingly varied familial relationships,” the court determined that a non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek custody and visitation rights where the partner “shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and raise the child together.” The final decision as to whether those rights will be granted rests in the discretion of the court, which must determine the best interests of the child to make the determination. Because the couple in this particular case entered into a pre-conception agreement with one another and the biological parents to raise the child as co-parents, the court did not decide if a couple without such an agreement would fulfill this new legal standard and could establish standing.

Same-sex marriage and adoption rights remain in a state of legal uncertainty despite the Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] last June that states must allow same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. In May the Alabama Supreme Court vacated [JURIST report] its prior ruling refusing to recognize same-sex adoption from other states. In April a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi struck down Mississippi’s ban on adoption by same-sex partners. In December the Arkansas Supreme Court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] lower court ruling allowing both partners in same-sex couples to be listed as the “birth parents” on birth certificates of their children.

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