Judges redefine parenthood

California courts are redefining who counts as a parent, reports the Sacramento Bee. A woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend’s children was declared a co-parent by a Sacramento appeals court because she “acted like one – providing for them financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.”

As a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, the woman couldn’t have adopted the children without risking expulsion from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the court ruled.

In recent years, courts have assigned parental rights and responsibilities to adults who aren’t biological or adoptive parents, said McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine.

“The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” he said. “That’s true for straight and gay couples.”

“Now the courts are starting to ask, ‘Who do these children think their parents are?'” said Deborah Wald, who handled S.Y.’s case at the appellate level. “Courts aren’t willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon.”

S.B.’s lawyer, Elizabeth Niemi warned single parents to “be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.”

About Joanne


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Sometimes I think Gingrich is over the top. Sometimes I think, instead, that he’s been paying more attention than the rest of us.

  2. Of course you do, Richard.

    The solution, of course, is to stop with the idiotic discrimination against gay couples. I don’t give a rat’s piss what your religion says on the matter, all I am interested in discussing is CIVIL marriage, which is a contract between a couple and the state. (Religions/churches should be able to discriminate to their heart’s content…as they already have the right to do… Catholic churches can discriminate against Protestant couples or divorced people (without anullments).)

    Fortunately, we all know that this battle is pretty much winding down… and we all know which side will win.

    It’s unfortunate that this couple split and that children were caught in the middle… but that sounds like a human problem that has NOTHING to do with the sexual orientation of the parents.

    • Well, it IS related to the genders of the “parents”, as at least one of them will not be a biological relation of the child.

      I’m inclined to allow non-parents to claim “parenthood”, as I am to allow civil unions, as long as it’s NOT mandatory for churches to have to recognize that union as marriage. No pastor/rabbi/iman/priest should be sued for refusing to marry/bury/christen people whose life choices aren’t in line with the church’s theological underpinnings.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    You missed the point, but those who have same-sex on their minds all the time are likely to do that.

    Gingrich recently talked about arresting judges or whole appellate levels, sending federal marhalls if necessary, if they continually make stupid and anti-constitutional decisions.

    Clear, now?

  4. Richard,

    And Gingrich got ripped a new one from conservative, centrist, and liberal law scholars for saying something so bat-shit insane.

    • Jab,

      The article was written with a gay agenda slant, and you’re caught up in it. The court ruling was based on legal precedent; live-in boy friends, of no relationship to the children, have been granted custody. This tends to happen when the other biological parent has disappeared–hence the warning, which Joanne truncated: “If you are a single parent, and there’s not another parent somewhere,” she said, “you have to be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.” Let’s say a woman with a three-year-old boy moves in with a man. After two years, the relationship disintegrates and the man sues for custody–and has legal precedent to win. You’re ok with that?

  5. The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” he said. “That’s true for straight and gay couples.”

    The state also has a great interest in having men who don’t want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood.


  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Still missed the point. As one of the Supremes remarked, “We’re not final because we’re right. We’re right because we’re final.”
    IOW, the courts have become extremely first among equals because, among other reasons, so much goes to the court. And they’ve become a problem because instead of doing justice, they do whatever the current mush-headed idea of “right” is, accordingto the loudest interest groups.
    And the courts are final.
    Yeah, Gingrich got ripped. Doesn’t mean the courts aren’t going nuts.
    If this case is a precedent, a court can choose whomever they like as parent without objective information and can choose the opposite whenever they like, because they feel like it, because there is no, or will be no dependable, objective information informing the decision.
    Bork once wrote of ecountering a recently-appointed appeals judge who, on being introduced to a Supreme, remarked, “I have just taken an oath to uphold your every whim.”
    True, that.

    • You feel better now, Richard Aubrey? Takes a real intellectual to regurgitate right wing talking points generated by a candidate who is, as we speak, dropping in the Iowa polls and the national polls and who will end up dropping out well before the virginia primary (which his campign was too incompetent to get registered for). The courts are “going nuts?” OK, then make that point and come up with a common sense way to get around the court’s ruling (i.e. read their decision and then pass a new law that addresses their constitutional concerns). But to threaten the viability of an independant judiciary? yeah, that’s really conservative….

  7. I do legal research on occasion for a local lawyer, and I’ve seen how this plays out in Colorado. You get grandparents and divorcing stepparents claiming that they’ve been acting as parents in order to get the courts to grant them formal “parenting time” (that’s the new term for visitation/custody) when family/romantic relationships go sour. The more time with and parent-like control over your children someone has, the better a position he/she will be in to fight for parenting time later even if you no longer want anything to do with that person. Ms. Niemi is giving good advice.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:


    I feel great, Swede. I knew of Bork’s comment years ago, and I’ve heard for years about the flooding of federal courts with stuff that should be at state level, and I’ve seen any number of precedents, judicial and otherwise, become written in stone, until the opposite seems convenient. For example, when race is not allowed in deciding college admits, character-building life experiences are dragged in. Not surprisingly, Asians don’t have any, or sufficient, or interesting, character-building life experiences, and there’s nothing that can be said because there’s no objective rubric.
    I feel great because Gingrich seems to have been listening to me. Smart guy, Gingrich.
    Calling something “right wing talking points” is not the same as figuring out what, exactly, is wrong with them. But it’s easier. Which, I suppose, is the primary point.
    The independent judiciary is indepedent because the citizenry thinks that’s a good idea. When the citizenry eventually decides the judiciary is over the top and doing injustice in behalf of special interests (let’s oppose voter ID because it discriminates against the recently deceased who ought to have the right to vote dem, for example), the judiciary is going to have a problem and the constitutionality of whatever happens to it is going to be irrelevant. May or may not be a good idea or result, but judicial restraint is what will preserve judicial independence.
    Now, I understand that the next step is to accuse somebody who points something out of wishing it. You can go ahead with that, or just consider it done.

    • Richard Aubrey,

      You wrote “When the citizenry eventually decides the judiciary is over the top and doing injustice in behalf of special interests… the judiciary is going to have a problem and the constitutionality of whatever happens to it is going to be irrelevant.” You know what I call that? Mob rule. Anarchy. Chaos. We solve problems through rational thought and action, not through unconstitutional bullying and threats (i.e. Gingrich calling for judges to be called in front of Congress- by force if needed). The fact that Gingrich threw this idea out there loses him my vote forever more, and if you have taken a look at his rapid poll decline, it seems as if I am far from alone in this.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        Call it mob rule, or whatever you want.

        But a system of government only lasts so long as a group of people with sufficient force to topple it allows it to stay in place.

        Now, you might say that’s trivially true. A tautology, even, if you think about it hard enough.

        But consider what that means.

        • Michael E Lopez,

          I really respect you and enjoy reading what you write, but your statement here is somewhat unclear. Are you saying that things are so bad right now that mob rule and anarchy are the only answers? That apprehending judges and forcing them to submit to Congressional hearings is the only way to solve any issues regarding judicial overreach? In your vague statement, who are the people with ‘sufficient force?” Are you one? Am I? Is Richard Aubrey? Jab? What qualifies people for this special little club? What exactly are you advocating here? We know what Gingrich was advocating- that position rules him out from further consideration for the Presidency. We know where Richard Aubrey is coming from (read his missive below). What are you trying to say here? Be more detailed and clear (as I tell my students all the time).

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    That’s the theory. Problem is, what happens when the theory breaks down? As in…elections are stolen. Some election officials indicted for forging names in NY state. Some due in Indiana, as some of the so-called signatories don’t recognize their signatures. If true, Obama may not have qualified
    Then there’s Chicago, about which nothing can be exaggerated.
    The resistance to the Voter ID issue is in order to facilitate fraudulent votes.
    Eventually, the average voter is going to notice that things happen against him, bitter clinger that he is, that neither he nor his friends, nor anybody he knows, voted for.
    Now, I understand that’s the way the dems and libs like it. But it may not last.
    Anyway, if the average voter thinks there’s no use voting–he’s still getting crapped on, see the delta smelt vs. CA farmers and ag workers–things could explode.
    BTW, I told you that you didn’t have to pretend that somebody who points something out is actually favoring it. But you went and did. Visualize transparency.
    Oh, yeah. Read the Declaration, the list of offenses the Brit government committed against the colonists. A multiplicity of offices which will mulct the population of their resources–broad paraphrase–for example.
    Suppose somebody goes John Galt, goes off the grid, commits not a single taxable act. Then what? You’ll have to just take his stuff. Problem is, he has a lot of ammunition and, at that point, little to lose.

    • As is the usual with Richard… it’s always the blacks, the latinos, the gays who are STEALING America from its rightful owners… Christian whites. Get over your racial panic, Richard.

    • See Richard, my problem with you and people like you is that you see conspiracy everywhere and cavalierly espouse violence (or, like Gingrich, unconstitutional and tyrannical measures to “solve” those conspiracies. I say work within the system (using Constitutional, logical, rational, and legal means) to further your goals and objectives. For example, you and I agree on the need for ID laws when it comes to voting. Campaigning for that and trying to persuade people of the validity of that position makes a lot of sense to me. But if that fails, to then start using violent rhetoric and/or develop over the top irrational ‘solutions” (again,the Gingrich judge thing which is where this conversation started or, as another example, the Perry “Texas should secede” speech) is where you and I do not see eye to eye anymore. Frankly, in terms of convincing the independents to vote GOP, I feel that people like you, Gingrich, and Perry do more harm than good.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Lame, lame, lame. But you did make it clear you have nothing. Clear.