Most families in our society do not fit into a typical mold and could be deemed non-traditional families. With the assistance of alternate reproductive technology (ATR), individuals, same-sex couples, unwed heterosexual couples, and some married couples, start such non-traditional families. Other non-traditional families form when an unmarried couple, whether same-sex or heterosexual, raise children together, to whom only one of them is the legal parent. Interestingly, with the formation of the non-traditional family, come complex legal issues. The types of legal issues raised by the non-traditional family include custody, visitation, child support, and constitutional issues regarding a legal parent's right to care and control of their child. Without concrete guidance from the state legislature, non-traditional families are forced to resolve these legal issues in the court system.

The laws and cases regarding these legal issues vary tremendously throughout the United States. However, there is an increasing trend for states to recognize that maintaining a relationship between the child and the non-legal parent is often in the child's best interests. Based on a recent Court of Appeals decision, Colorado recognizes the potential emotional harm a child might suffer if the court terminates the child's relationship with that child's non-legal parent. Yet, the legal status of the relationship between a child and her non-legal parent far from secure. In any case where a non-traditional family is formed, it is imperative that decisions regarding how and why the family formed are thoroughly discussed. Perhaps even more importantly, each person who wishes to start such a non-traditional family should consider the legal consequences and plan for the possibility that legal problems may arise in the future.

If you are a parent- legal, genetic, or non-legal- and you face a family law problem within the context of a non traditional family, you would be best served by contacting someone who has knowledge and experience in such matters.