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Third parties may have custody, support rights and obligations

The concept of a family has undergone a beautiful evolution over time. While once a family only consisted of a mother, father, and any children that may have been born from their union, it now extends to single parent households, blended households, households where grandparents raise their grandchildren, households with two parents of the same sex and other combinations driven by affiliation and love.

In Washington and states throughout the nation, though, familial relationships tend to be created in one of two ways - through blood or through marriage. A blood relationship is formed when one person descends from another or from a common ancestor; a legal relationship is formed when two people marry each other or a person is adopted by one or more individuals.

A relatively new legal concept is challenging these accepted means of familial connection. "Tri-parenting" occurs when a person who lacks a biological connection to a child is granted custodial and support rights to a child based on the role that they played in the child's upbringing. For example, in Washington a man was allowed custody of and expected to pay support for a child he raised as his own but who was the biological child of another man.

As of yet not all states have endeavored to explore how their family laws will operate within this complex scenario where a third party may have an interest in a parental role for a non-biological child. Individuals who encounter legal dilemmas similar to tri-parenting or other situations that require legal guidance are encouraged to discuss their needs with family law attorneys in their communities.

Source: washingtonpost.com, "Courts and 'tri-parenting': A state-by-state look," Jennifer Peltz, June 18, 2017

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