NY State Court of Appeals Expands Definition Of “Parent” To Recognize Co-Parents Unrelated by Biology or Adoption

Fried Frank represented Lawyers for Children and the Children's Law Center as amici in Brooke B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C., a high-profile case where on August 30 2016, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that a co-parent who is not biologically or adoptively related to a child, but who can prove that “the parties entered into a pre-conception agreement to conceive and raise a child as co-parents” has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law section 70. In addition, the Court left open the question of whether there are other fact circumstances that could give rise to standing under a similar theory. The decision explicitly and necessarily reversed In re Alison D., a 1991 Court of Appeals case that left the non-biological, non-adoptive parents with no standing to seek visitation or custody of their children under any circumstance. This landmark decision changes the landscape for children, in families primarily headed by unmarried same sex couples, who before Brooke B stood to lose completely one of their parents in a separation. The Court highlighted that the status quo of denying a non-biological parent the ability to seek visitation or custody of their children was not viable and that a rule denying in all circumstances a child her relationship with her non-biological parent causes significant harm to the child. The Fried Frank team consisted of Jennifer Colyer, Justin Santolli, Naz Wehrli and Shannon Doherty.