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New York court expands definition of parent

On Aug. 30, a New York state court ruled that non-biological and non-adoptive parents may be granted visitation and custody rights if a couple ends their relationship. The latest ruling overturns a ruling in 1991 made by the same court that defined a parent as someone who was the child's biological parent or who had a connection to the child through adoption.

The ruling acknowledged that the 1991 decision came before same-sex marriages were legal in the state, and the evolving nature of family relationships makes that standard unworkable today. To be granted custody or visitation rights today, an individual must show that there was clear intent to conceive or raise a child with his or her partner. Furthermore, custody and visitation rights will only be granted if it is considered to be in the best interest of the child.

A representative from LAMBDA Legal as well as the man who argued the case on behalf of one of the children impacted by the old law both applauded the decision. However, a conservative member of the state legislature cautioned that it could lead to the unraveling of the traditional family unit.

It is generally acknowledged that a child does better in life when he or she receives adequate parental guidance. Therefore, a court may rule that one or both parents may be given visitation and custody rights to a child regardless of how they feel about each other. Those who are in this type of a situation may wish to speak with an attorney about obtaining maximum parental rights after the end of a marriage.

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