In years past, it was just moms and dads who got all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. But thanks to surrogate births, same-sex parenthood and medically-assisted reproduction, all that could be about to change.

New legislation in California would give judges the ability to decide custody, visitation and child support among three or more adults who acted as parents. And while it wouldn’t redefine parenthood, it would make things a bit simpler for nontraditional households and relationships.

The bill came about as the result of a  dispute involving a biological mother, her same-sex partner and a man who impregnated the mother during an affair. Afterwards, the courts had to decide who had legal rights to the resulting child.

Proponents of the new legislation say designating multiple parents in such cases could enhance the child’s prospects for financial support, health insurance or Social Security benefits, and thus reduce the state’s potential financial responsibility.

What’s more, in bitter breakups involving two unfit or incapacitated parents, a judge could use his or her discretion to recognize another parent and keep the child out of foster care.

Regardless, critics are concerned. Karen Anderson of the California Protective Parents Association said the bill could result in a child being bounced around between several adults, adding, “It’s hard enough for children to be split up two ways, much less multiple ways.”

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