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Ruling Redefines Definition of Parenthood in New York


The definition of parenthood in New York has been expanded to honor the rights of non-biological, non-adoptive second parents in non-traditional families. In a landmark ruling, the New York State Court of Appeals has declared that a caretaker who is not related to, or the adoptive guardian of, a child could still petition for custody and visitation rights.

The ruling comes from a dispute between a same-sex Chautauqua County couple, referred to in court papers as “Brooke S.B” and “Elizabeth A. C.C.” Having been in a relationship since 2006 and announced engagement plans in 2007, Elizabeth became pregnant through artificial insemination in 2008 and gave birth to a son, which both she and Brooke raised from birth. While Brooke had no biological or adoptive ties to the boy, she gave him her last name, raised him, and maintained a close relationship with him for many years – even after the couple’s split in 2010.

In 2013, Elizabeth attempted to cut off Brooke’s communications with her son, at which point Brooke sued for custody and visitation privileges and was turned down in court due to her legal non-status as a parent. At appeal, however, the court overturned the ruling and declared that the 30-year-old definition of a parent no longer applies to the varied structures of modern families, especially given last year’s United States Supreme Court ruling which granted same-sex couples the right to marry. The appeals court ruled that in situations where “a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody.”

Child Custody Lawyers in Long Island

If you are a second parent in a same-sex relationship or a non-adoptive stepparent, this ruling will help to level the playing field and give you a fighting chance towards gaining custody in the event that you and your partner should ever split. If you have found yourself in a similar situation, whether it be a divorce or separation, contact Rubenfeld Law Firm today. Having been fighting for the rights of parents throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties for more than 30 years, our Long Island family law attorneys can provide the knowledgeable guidance you need to guard your rights to your children.

To find out more about what our top-rated team of professionals can do for you, call (631) 777-7200 or schedule a free case review online today.

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