Third-Party Visitation Statutes: Why Are Some Families More Equal than Others? – Note by Natalie Reed

From Volume 78, Number 6 (September 2005)

Over the last quarter-century, the definition of the American family has transformed from a clearly defined image of mother, father, and natural offspring to a kaleidoscopic vision of adoptive families, extended families, gay and lesbian families, stepparent families, and single-parent families. Although a vast body of law limits the state’s ability to impinge on the parental decisionmaking of intact, biological families, nontraditional families are finding that their legal right to select the persons with whom their children associate is far less protected and even subject to state court review.

The family, which was once a standardized structure, has diversified substantially because of liberal no-fault divorce rules, social acceptance of nonmarital sexuality and cohabitation, and tolerance of same-sex relationships. Detractors assert that America is in the midst of a social breakdown; however, the structure of the American family, rather than disintegrating, is merely evolving into something new.



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