Document Type


Publication Date



In recent years, a number of jurisdictions have enacted laws recognizing that a child may have more than two legal parents (multi-parentage). Recognition of multi-parentage represents a significant change to the legal framework governing parentage— for most of U.S. history, it was well established that a child could have a maximum of two legal parents. While commentators undoubtedly will continue to debate the wisdom of multi-parentage recognition, it is clear both that multi-parentage has arrived and that its arrival raises many novel and important questions across a variety of areas of the law. Proponents and opponents of multi-parentage agree that child custody represents one of the core areas in which multi-parentage recognition will raise complicated questions that warrant careful consideration. It is inevitable that, just as child custody disputes arise in two-parent families, such disputes also will occur in multi-parent families. As a result, legislatures and courts soon will face the task of deciding how to approach custody disputes involving children who have more than two legal parents. This Article examines a number of the core initial questions that multi-parentage recognition will raise in the child custody context. These questions include: (1) whether parents who share an intact relationship and are involved in a dispute with another parent should be considered a single entity or separate entities for purposes of the custody determination; (2) whether legal standards employing presumptions in favor of joint custody, which have become increasingly popular in the two-parent custody context, should extend to multi-parent custody disputes; and (3) to what degree the law should encourage settlement and defer to agreements reached by the parties in multi-parent custody disputes. The Article concludes by setting forth detailed proposals regarding how lawmakers and courts should resolve these essential questions.

Publication Title

Minnesota Law Review





Article Number


First Page


Last Page


Included in

Law Commons