Standing of Parents in Deed But Not in Gene

I have blogged a number of times on grandparents’ rights with respect to visitation and custody of their grandchildren. In a nutshell, for better or worse, those rights have eroded over the last several years.

One of the terms that sometimes comes up in this context is de facto parent, someone who is not legally a parent but who in fact plays the role of parent.

Sometimes, this may be a grandparent. Sometimes it may be stepparent. Sometimes it may be the legal parent’s gay partner. Sometimes it is someone else.

As long as the legal parent is alive and the relationship with the de facto parent is intact, the de facto parent is for all intents and purposes, a parent.

But if the legal parent’s relationship with the de facto parent sours – or the legal parent dies – the de facto parent’s legal standing with respect to the child often is non-existent.

A recent article reveals the concerns of a grandmother who fulfills many of the duties of a mother – because her son has custody of his daughter. The grandmother believes the mother’s lifestyle is too unstable for a child – and worries what would happen to the child if something happened to her son.

Then there is the stepdad who treats his stepdaughter as his own. What if something were to happen to his wife?

Under current national trends, the law focuses on the parent’s constitutional rights.

These surrogate parents suggest that the biological or legal parents’ rights should be subordinated to the rights, needs and best interests of the child.

Just as it is when one biological or legal parent is pitted against the other biological or legal parent.

And some Utahns (and other Americans) are working for legislative reform in this area.

Read more in this Desert Morning News article: Custody laws put many in limbo.