How to navigate the rights of non-biological parents in New York.

Navigating the Legal Landscape for Non-Biological Parents in New York

Non-biological parents in New York face unique challenges when it comes to asserting their parental rights. Unlike biological parents, their relationship with a child is not automatically recognized by law. This article provides guidance on understanding and navigating the rights of non-biological parents in the Empire State.

Understanding Legal Parenthood

In New York, legal parenthood is not limited to biological connections. It can also be established through adoption, marriage to a child's biological parent, or by obtaining a court order. The landmark case of Matter of Brooke S.B. vs. Elizabeth A.C.C. expanded the definition of parenthood to recognize non-biological, non-adoptive parents who have a clear and substantial pre-existing relationship with a child.


Adoption is a common method for non-biological parents to establish legal rights. This includes both private adoptions and step-parent adoptions, where a spouse adopts their partner's biological child. New York requires the consent of both biological parents unless their rights have been legally terminated or surrendered.

Marriage and Assumption of Parenthood

In some cases, if a non-biological parent is married to the biological parent at the time of a child's birth or conception, they may be presumed to be the legal parent. This presumption can sometimes be rebutted by evidence that another person is the child's biological parent.

Parental Orders

Non-biological parents can also seek a judicial order of custody or visitation, demonstrating that they have an established relationship with the child and that involvement is in the child's best interest. In cases involving same-sex couples, for example, a non-biological parent may need to prove their intent to raise the child together with their partner.

Surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

With the passage of the Child-Parent Security Act in 2020, New York has permitted gestational surrogacy contracts. This law allows intended parents, including non-biological ones, to establish legal parental rights before the birth of a child conceived through ART.

The Importance of Legal Assistance

Navigating parental rights as a non-biological parent often requires skilled legal assistance. Family law attorneys who specialize in this area can help individuals through complex adoption processes, surrogacy agreements, custody disputes, and ART arrangements.


The landscape for non-biological parental rights in New York is complex but navigable with proper legal advice and awareness of recent legislative changes. It’s important for non-biological parents seeking recognition of their parental status to understand their options and pursue them proactively within New York's legal system.