By: Shannon Ralph
On August 5th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Protection of Parent-Child Relationship Act. Currently, federal law allows a biological mother and biological father to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) that makes a man a legal parent. This groundbreaking new statute protects the parental rights of non-biological parents in California in regards to the VAP.
So how exactly does this work? Let’s say that a lesbian couple has a child together using a known sperm donor. The couple raises the child together for several years. The couple then breaks up. The biological mother can have the sperm donor sign a VAP, thereby negating the parental rights of the non-biological mom. Sadly, this exact scenario has happened before in California.
Under the new statute, a VAP is not valid if the man was a sperm donor, unless there was a written agreement before the child’s conception that the man would be a parent. If the child was conceived through sexual intercourse, the biological father can sign a VAP, but a presumed parent (which would include a non-biological mom who received the child into her home and held the child out as her own) can challenge that declaration within two years. If she does so, the court must decide parentage based on the best interests of the child, including taking into account the “nature, duration, and quality” of each parent’s relationship with the child.
Simply put, this law acknowledges the role of non-biological parents and requires the court to look at the best interests of the child in determining parental rights. It is a step in the right direction toward valuing all families and respecting all parental relationships. Way to go, California!