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Courts have long adhered to a child's best interests when making custody decisions. Generally, that means parents sharing custody so that the child can maintain positive relationships with each parent. But what if there are more than two parents?
In what could be a landmark ruling, a judge in New York granted custody of a 10-year-old child to three parents: a divorced man and woman and the female neighbor with whom they had a threesome.
Not all amorous relationships fit a binary model. And while statutes and courts may cling to more conventional models of the family unit, the families themselves may have moved on to other arrangements. Such is the case of Dawn and Michael Marano and their former downstairs neighbor, Audria Garcia. The three "began to engage in intimate relations," as the judge wrote, and also decided they wanted a child.
Dawn Marano was infertile, so Michael agreed to father the child with Garcia. The boy was born in 2007, but the extramarital bliss did not last long. Just 18 months later, Garcia and Dawn Marano decided they wanted to make the threesome a twosome and moved out. When Michael sued for custody of the boy, Dawn responded with a divorce suit.
All that was left to figure out was custody of the trio's son. During the pregnancy, both women attended doctor appointments together, and after the birth the two took turns waking to feed the baby. But Dawn felt left out by the initial custody agreement, which was split between the child's biological parents. And because she had not adopted the boy, Dawn was left with no automatic legal rights to custody.
But Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Patrick Leis III sided with Dawn, and fashioned a custody order granting her custody on Wednesday nights, one week of vacation during the school year, and two weeks in the summer, while Garcia retains residential custody and Michael gets the boy on the weekends. Judge Leis cited other court rulings granted custody to non-biological parents to gain custody if they had a prior relationship with the child.
While California allows children to have more than two parents, Leis's ruling is believed to be the first to grant "tri-custody" to three parents in New York. Our guess is that, as romantic relationships continue to evolve, so will the child custody orders coming from courts.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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