"Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you."--  Kahlil Gibran

What is tri-parenting, and how relevant is it in our modern-day society?

Tri-parenting: a definition

The ancient African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child,"... conveying the view that it takes a communal group to rear a well-adjusted child who contributes to the welfare of the community...

a new twist on this ancient belief is swiftly emerging alongside the ever-evolving definition of what constitutes a family. The new twist is known as "tri-parenting," and courts are awarding custodial and placement rights to not just the child's biological parents, but also to a third adult who has a close bond with the child."

In other words, three people are granted equal legal rights to a child or children in terms of visitation rights, physical custody, as well as legal custody. It is important to note that the courts do not give the third adult in the relationship legal parenting status; however, he/she retains all of the other rights afforded to a legal parent.

Tri-parenting: an example

Possibly the best way to understand how tri-parenting came about, is to cite an example. A tri-parenting and custody arrangement is often made between the biological parents plus the partner of one of the biological parents. This legal arrangement is concluded before the child is conceived. In our example, the child in question's legal parents are a same-sex male couple, while the third party in this arrangement is a close female friend, and biological mother, of the couple. It goes without saying that one of the men in the couple has agreed to be the biological father. The three adults decided that they would all raise the child together as a unit.

However, with time, this relationship can become fraught with challenges and difficulties. In our example, the biological mother decided to get married and move with the child to another city. Naturally, the male couple (and other two parents) of the child objected to this arrangement, forcing the three parents to petition the family court for a ruling in his/her favour. In a nutshell, the outcome of this case was that, even though the non-biological parent was not afforded legal parenting status, he was seen as a psychological parent of the child and had an equal say in the raising of the child. Furthermore, all three parents were afforded equal custody and visitation rights.

Final words

There are risks involved when deciding to set upa tri-parenting relationship between three adults. History has shown us that a three-parent relationship is just as likely to fail as a dual-parent relationship, with often disastrous consequences for the child and the third parent. In our example, because the biological father's partner was afforded equal parenting rights, the male couple overruled the biological mother; consequently, she was not allowed to take the child with her when she moved to her new home. 

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