The old way of thinking about parenthood involved two options. One was the traditional method of two biological or adoptive parents, either married or not. There was also the single parent. Based on recent changes, New York state is offering up to six different options for a parent. This is due to a change in the definition of parent, which has evolved quickly in light of rights of people and parents in the LBGTQ communities.
The old way of thinking
The state didn’t have specific definition for parents. The old way of thinking was “by estoppel,” which meant if you had been parenting the child regardless of whether it was biological. Things changed after the case Alison D. vs. Virginia M. This case involved custody of child raised by a gay couple who split up. The biological mother wanted to cut off visitation rights of the ex-partner. The court ruled in favor of biological mom and then added that could only be two ways to become a parent:
- By being the biological parent of the child
- By legally adopting the child
The new way of thinking
In a similar case where two moms split up and the biological mother sought to cut the other mom, the case was changed on appeal. The Appeals Court in 2018 expressly rejected the old precedent and even updated the “estoppel doctrine” to now consider the reliance upon non-biological parents. The four additional ways to become a parent in New York are:
- Preconception agreement
- Equitable estoppels
- If the parent pays child support, they also have custody rights
- Same sex married couples receive presumption of parentage, just as their female-male counterparts do
Custody still challenging
The make-up of legal family units has evolved in recent years. This means that custody disputes, visitation rights, joint custody or other custody matters have also evolved. No matter the circumstances, the key is still to consider the best interests of the child in a custody dispute.