Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date

January 2006


This analysis of the American Law Institute's Principles of Family Law, Chapter 3, examines how the Principles perceive the origins and extent of parental obligation. What is that makes someone financially responsible for a child? Perhaps surprisingly, the Drafters of this key chapter of the Principles spend remarkably little time analyzing that question. Instead, to determine who has parental obligation, the Principles rely on extant legal paternity and parenthood doctrine that is itself completely muddled. To determine the extent of parental obligation, the Principles employ a binary biological ideal of parenthood that fails to reflect reality for close to half of the children in this country. What is most striking about this traditional approach to parental obligation is how much it contrasts with the Principles' approach to parental rights in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 does a great deal of ambitious work laying out a new framework for who should enjoy parental rights and why. In doing so, it greatly expands the pool of people who may be entitled to parental rights and it makes clear that more than two people can be parents to one child. Chapter 3 does almost nothing to expand the pool of people who may be responsible for a child and it specifically discourages the notion that more than two people can parent one child. Thus, it is clear that adults may enjoy parental rights without shouldering any parental responsibility. Regardless of what one thinks of the wisdom of either chapter 2 or 3, their contrasting treatment of parental rights and obligation demands further analysis.

Included in

Family Law Commons