Relational Parents: When Adults Receive Rights in Children Because of Their Relationship with a Parent

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Significant changes in family forms and dynamics (such as increases in nonmarital cohabitation, children cared for by extended family, and same-sex couples with children) have prompted policymakers to rethink the question of who is a legal parent. Specifically, the law is grappling with which adults will be granted parental status or rights based on their relationship with a child’s parent and why. This chapter reviews the mounting number of doctrinal hooks used by courts, legislatures, and law reformers for deciding when adults can make claims in children. It examines traditional parentage and family privacy doctrines, reviews justifications for a dramatic widening of the parental tent, and then turns to a set of fairness and child-welfare concerns raised by these concepts, highlighting four major worries. It argues that costs of considering the parentage claims of relational parents—both to the legal parent and to the child—have received inadequate weight to date.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Children and the Law
EditorsJames Dwyer
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190694395
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • legal parentage
  • Uniform Law Commission
  • American Law Institute
  • Uniform Parentage Act
  • Haleigh Poutre
  • child welfare
  • in loco parentis
  • parent by estoppel
  • de facto parent
  • psychological parent
  • same-sex couples
  • family privacy
  • relational parentage


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