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What does the future hold for tri-custody divorce mediation?

New York and California occupy opposite coasts with both states having little in common. That is, until a recent ruling by a Suffolk County judge overseeing a lengthy custody battle.

The unconventional decision in March called for “tri-custody” of child born into an unconventional family. It was the first such ruling in New York, joining California as the second state to allow children to have more than two legal parents.

Supreme Court Judge H. Patrick Leis III’s March ruled that three people involved in a polyamorous relationship can all share custody of their son. The ten year-old boy is the biological child of Michael Marano and Audria Garcia. Both Michael and his wife Dawn had a lengthy, intimate relationship with the birth mother who was also their neighbor.

With Dawn unable to conceive, Garcia carried a baby that all three planned to raise together. However, the two “mothers” left Michael and moved in with each other, taking the child with them. Michael and Dawn subsequently filed for divorce.

Garcia wanted tri-custody with Dawn having the legal rights of a parent. Michael disputed the arrangement. In his decision, Leis wrote that the three-way agreement was in the best interests of the child because the son considers both women his mothers.

With seventeen percent of Americans aged 18 to 44 engaging in consensual non-monogamy, a new era of parenting is at its genesis. No longer is a good upbringing limited to just two parents.

Family laws, not only in New York, but also throughout the country, have to start recognizing the diversity of an individual’s or couple’s sexuality. The ruling, while important and precedent setting, creates a legislative vacuum in custody statutes.

The changing dynamic with three parties instead of two could soon start blazing new trails in divorce mediation nationwide. Attorney mediators who facilitate custody arrangements may find it more commonplace to evaluate the best interests of the child based on a trio or larger, instead of a duo.

Three-way arrangements decided outside of a trial will likely require new strategies by a an attorney mediator. The need for a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced attorney mediator has never been more important to families becoming more and more conventional.

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