An unprecedented ruling from New York state has allowed three parents to claim custody of their child, paving the way for polyamorous parents to gain legal custody of their children. The father, however, is looking to appeal the decision.
Jezebel reports that Long Island married couple Dawn and Michael Marano engaged in “intimate relations” with their downstairs neighbor, Audria Garcia, back in 2001. The three moved in together, and Michael fathered a son with Garcia in part due to Dawn’s infertility. All three parents took care of the young boy after he was born, until Dawn and Garcia split off as a couple of their own. Dawn sued for a divorce; Michael sued for custody. The biological parents were given joint custody, but Dawn was not, and even though she and Garcia still live together, she filed a suit to secure her rights to see her son.
“She fears that without court-ordered visitation and shared custody, her ability to remain in [the boy’s] life would be solely dependent upon obtaining the consent of either Audria or [Michael],” Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge H. Patrick Leis III said, according to the New York Post.
“It was agreed, before a child was conceived, that [the Maranos and Garcia] would all raise the child together as parents,” Judge Leis ruled. “No one told these three people to create this unique relationship.”
The court’s decision to grant tri-custody partly stemmed from the child’s point-of-view. The Post reports that the son calls both women “mommy,” differentiating the two between “mommy with the orange truck” and “mommy with the gray truck.” All three parents also created a “loving environment” for him, which means all three parents should be given custody in the eyes of the court.
Michael isn’t happy, however. While Garcia has residential custody, and Dawn has Wednesday nights and three weeks during the year, Michael gets the threesome’s son on weekends. He hopes to appeal the decision. If he succeeds, the precedent set forth by Judge Leis may be overturned.
For now, though, the ruling could pave the way for more “tri-custody” cases in New York state, where three or more parents from a polyamorous relationship could gain custody over a child. This not just legitimizes parental polyamory, but also gives more leniency to queer families who may have multiple parents raising a child at a given time.
New York isn’t the first state in the U.S. to legitimize polyamorous parenthood. A 2013 article from Verdict reveals that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) previously signed a law that grants child custody to more than two parents, effectively allowing tri-custody status in the state.
“While the very existence of [poly] families may seem novel, or even scary to the traditionalists, they are a reality of modern life,” columnist Joanna L. Grossman wrote for Verdict. “And children should not suffer due to the law’s desire to cling to the past.”