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.”