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When the Law Makes You a Parent: Ways to Establish Parentage

You may be surprised to know that there are multiple ways in which the law can establish someone as a parent. Whether or not someone is a parent usually comes up when there are issues regarding child custody and child support. For example, one person may claim that he or she is not a parent in an effort to avoid paying child support. This blog will discuss different ways in which a person can be found to be a parent in the eyes of the law.

Laws on Establishing Parentage

When states develop their own laws regarding who is or is not legally a parent, the Uniform Parentage Act serves as a guide. Last revised in 2017, the Uniform Parentage Act offers a legal framework for determining parent-child relationships. Although laws regarding parentage often vary from state to state, the Uniform Parentage Act is nonetheless a useful resource. Even if a state has not adopted the Uniform Parentage Act, it is likely that the state has laws that are similar to those in the Act. In fact, some states may have even modeled their parentage laws on the Uniform Parentage Act. The latest revision of the Act occurred in 2017, following the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Therefore, the Uniform Parentage Act is also applicable to same-sex couples and the children of same-sex couples.

Ways of Establishing Parentage

The following are examples recognized by some states of possible ways in which a person may be considered to be a parent:

  1. The person gives birth to the child and is not acting as a surrogate.
  2. The person legally adopts the child.
  3. A court adjudicates the person as a parent.
  4. The person formally acknowledges that he/she is the parent and meets certain requirements.

In addition, a person may be presumed to be the parent of a child if:

  1. the child was born during an intact marriage;
  2. the person and the woman who gave birth to the child were married and the child was not born more than 300 days after the marriage ended;
  3. the person and the woman who gave birth to the child got married after the child’s birth and the person asserted that he/she was the parent and meets certain requirements; AND/OR
  4. the person lived in the same house as the child for a certain period of time and openly held out the child as his/her own.

Identifying a legal parent-child relationship between two individuals by following these guidelines is known as a presumption of parentage. However, it is always important to remember that a presumption of parentage may be rebutted.

Most states have variations on these methods. Some may not recognize all of these ways or may have additional ways not listed here. For this reason, it is important to consult an attorney familiar with parentage laws in your state to help you understand the different ways in which parentage may be established.

Parentage and Assisted Reproduction Technology

With the onset of various technological methods that can help couples conceive, it is important to highlight that consenting to having a child through assisted reproductive technology, such as using donors or a surrogate, can also make a person a parent. Usually, there are certain requirements for what makes the consent valid and these requirements can vary from state to state. In addition, donors and surrogates are usually not considered to be parents and relinquish their parental rights at the time of donation.

Why is This Important?

Determining parentage is incredibly important and has numerous implications. If found to be a parent, you may have certain rights and responsibilities regarding the upbringing of your child. As a parent, you may also try to obtain custody of your child, and the determination of parentage is essential to obtaining custody. In addition, your children will likely have certain rights to your estate upon your death. If you die without a valid will, your estate will likely pass according to the applicable state’s laws on intestate succession, which oftentimes favor family members. As a parent, you may also be able to inherit from your child’s estate if your child predeceases you.

Establishing a person’s parentage has emotional, financial, and legal implications. The attorneys at Patriots Law Group understand how to navigate these situations involving families and children. They have extensive experience with child custody and support. Call us for help today!

DISCLAIMER:  The information above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice for any particular situation.  No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information and may not be relied upon based on the above-statements.  Each individual situation is different and therefore a consultation is necessary before any advice can be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for your situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice concerning your situation.