When a child is born, the mother must choose one person to be the primary parent for the child. Usually the mother will choose herself.
The primary parent must be an adult, not in prison, and not too disabled to be a parent. If the mother wants to choose herself as primary parent, but the mother does not meet the requirements, then the mother may choose herself provided that she is likely to meet the requirements within five years. If the mother is not likely to meet the requirements within five years, then the mother may not choose herself and must choose someone else.
The mother may choose an adoption organization instead of a primary parent, in which case the adoption organization must choose a primary parent.
The primary parent must choose three people to be secondary parents for the child. This is like the roman catholic church tradition of two parents plus two godparents. This is also like Hillary Clinton's village. At least two of the secondary parents must meet the requirements of being a primary parent. If the primary parent does not meet the requirements of being a primary parent, then all of the secondary parents must meet the requirements. Usually the father will be one of the secondary parents. The other secondary parents will usually be grandparents, aunts, uncles, or friends of the mother and father.
The parents must show proof that they can afford to pay the costs of caring for the child. The parents must have wealth or income or the support of a charitable organization.
The primary and secondary parents must be registered when the birth of the child is registered. The mother must arrange this during pregnancy, because the arrangements must be complete when the child is born. If arrangements are not complete when the child is born, the child is put up for adoption, and the mother goes to prison.
Some people might think it is unfair that the mother and not the father goes to prison. But it will be rare for the mother to actually go to prison because the mother can avoid prison by choosing an adoption organization. Prison is not a punishment for pregnancy. Prison is a punishment for failing to make plans to take care of the child, like sending the father to prison for failing to pay child support.
The primary parent is responsible for caring for the child, and the secondary parents are responsible for assisting the primary parent and making sure that the primary parent is taking care of the child. All parents are expected to share the costs of taking care of the child. Any parent who refuses to pay for the costs of taking care of the child should be punished. If the child is abused, all parents may be punished.
Other people who are not the legal parents of the child may also be involved in caring for the child, but such involvement is voluntary and has no legal status. The others have no legal obligation to pay child support and have no visitation rights. If the mother or father are not the legal parents, but wish to help care for the child, then the legal parents may accept or refuse such assistance, but the others cannot appeal to the family court to override the legal parents' decision.
No one may be forced to be a primary parent against their will. The mother and father may be forced to be secondary parents against will. No one else may be forced to be a secondary parent against their will.
Any parent may quit at any time. A former parent remains responsible for the costs of taking care of the child, and is expected to pay child support. A former parent is not expected to take care of the child, and is not responsible if the child is abused. If the mother or father were forced to be secondary parents against their wills, they may quit immediately, and are treated the same as any other parent who quit.
If the mother wants the father to pay child support, the primary parent must choose the father to be a secondary parent when the child is born. If the father refuses, the primary parent can ask the family court to force the father to become a secondary parent against his will. The father can then quit being a parent, but remains liable for child support. Or the primary parent can immediately replace the father. If the primary parent does not choose the father to be a secondary parent when the child is born, then the father cannot be forced to pay child support.
If the primary parent quits or dies, the secondary parents choose a new primary parent. Usually one of the secondary parents will become the new primary parent. If any of the secondary parents quit or die, the primary parent chooses new secondary parents.
The primary parent may replace any secondary parents at any time.
The secondary parents may not replace the primary parent, but may ask the family court to replace the primary parent. Anyone can ask the family court to replace the primary parent, but the family court should refuse all such requests unless there is strong evidence that replacing the primary parent is in the best interests of the child.
Parents who quit do not have visitation rights. Parents who were replaced do have visitation rights, unless the the family court decides that visits with the former parents are harmful to the child.
Parents who quit and then change their minds have no right to resume being parents. The primary parent may choose to reinstate former parents, but the primary parent is not obligated to reinstate former parents, and the former parents may not ask the family court to reinstate them against the will of the primary parent.
The primary parent may choose a parent support organization instead of secondary parents. A parent support organization might be part of a church, or might be a social service organization which teaches parenting skills. A parent support must be licensed by the government, and the license will say the maximum number of children which the organization may support. The parent support organization acts like the secondary parents. The parent support organization assists the primary parent in taking care of the child and makes sure that the primary parent takes care of the child. The parent support organization is expected to pay the cost of taking care of the child and may be punished if the child is abused. The usual punishment for a child support organization is loss of license, but in extreme cases the leaders and social workers of the parent support organization may be sent to prison. The primary parent can replace the parent suport organization at any time and the parent support organization can quit at any time. Some parent support organizations will support poor parents and rely on donations and grants. Such parent support organizations are charities which take care of whole families rather than individuals.
For example, suppose that a teenager becomes pregnant and wants to keep the baby. The teenager is not an adult but will become an adult within five years, and so the mother may choose herself to be primary parent. The mother's family and friends are too poor to support the child, so the mother must choose a charitable parent support organization as secondary parent. The parent support organization imposes some conditions, such as that the mother must stay in school, the mother must attend parenting classes, and the mother must submit to frequent inspections by the social workers of the parent support organization. The parent support organization might require that the mother and child live with the mother's family, or might provide a place for the mother and child to live. The parent support organization provides child care so the mother can attend school and pays for health care. If there are personality conflicts between the mother and the social workers of the parent support organization, then the mother can replace the parent support organization with a different parent support organization. This is why it is good to have multiple independent parent support organizations instead of relying on government social workers. If the mother fails to comply with the conditions of the parent support organization, such as if the mother fails to attend school, then the parent support organization will quit. Since the mother failed to cooperate with the parent support organization, other parent support organizations will probably refuse to support the mother. If the mother cannot find secondary parents, the child will be put up for adoption. So even though the mother is the primary parent and can replace the parent support organization, the parent support organization has the power to take the child away from the mother.
The primary parent could choose a church as the parent support organization, and then if the primary parent died, the church would choose a new primary parent. Thus the primary parent would be assured that the child would be raised in the religion chosen by the primary parent.
These child guardianship rules do not allow joint custody. I think the joint custody is a bad idea. If the parents have joint custody but do not agree on how to take care of the child, then every decision about how to take care of the child must be made by the family court, and the quarreling parents have no control over the child because each prevents the other from taking care of the child. I think this is bad for the child, and therefore joint custody should not be allowed. If the parents agree, then it does not matter which parent is the primary parent and which parent is the secondary parent, and there is no need for joint custody. If the mother and father consider themselves to be equal partners and do not want to declare that one is primary and the other is secondary, then the mother and father should randomly choose which is primary, and the other can be primary for the next child.
These child guardianship rules would reduce child poverty by discouraging people who cannot care for children from having children. The total effect on child poverty would depend on other factors. These rules might cause many children to be taken from their parents because the parents could not show that they could afford to take care of the children. These rules might cause poor people to move to some other less strict jurisdiction; this would reduce poverty within the jurisdiction by driving out the poor people. But I hope that there would be enough well funded parent support organizations to help the poor people take care of their children.
I predict that these child guardianship rules would reduce child poverty by reducing the number of children born into poverty.
These child guardianship rules would work equally well with heterosexual marriage, homosexual marriage, and polygamy.
Elsewhere I have said that I favor competitive federalism. These rules for child guardianship should be enacted by a competing government, not by the central government.