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Definition of 'parent' still a work in progress

If you look up the word "parent" in Webster's New World College Dictionary, you will find definition one listed as a mother or father. Definition two puts the word in the context of ancestry. It is only at definition three that the word is addressed more generally as the relationship between any animal (or plant) and its offspring.

What's missing, of course, is that in today's social construct in Arkansas and a lot of the rest of the world, the whole definition of family is in flux. As a result, so is the definition of parent. This tends to make for some complicated situations as we all try to sort out delicate family law matters to achieve proper legal status under the law.

According to the Uniform Parentage Act, which provides the general language that applies in Arkansas, states that a parent, "is a biological, adoptive parent or legal guardian as determined by applicable State law and is responsible for the care, custody and control of a child or upon whom there is legal duty for such care."

That obviously attempts to be more inclusive in reflecting possible family scenarios that may exist. But even that leaves the question open to some interpretation, and where opinions about social norms differ, so does interpretation. As is often the case, this means that issues must be resolved by courts in individual states.

Not surprisingly, different opinions will deliver different decisions and so, like the general question of same-sex marriage, a final determination may only come if the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.

Child custody and parenting rights are only some of the family law hurdles that same-sex couples or nonbiological parents can face in Arkansas. If you are confronted with such a dilemma, the firm of Robertson, Oswalt and Associates invites you to contact us.

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