You may recall the landmark Court of Appeal published decision obtained by our firm in 2014 known as Jason P. v. Danielle S. 226 Cal. App. 4th 167. That case created a change to decades old parentage statutes which barred a biological father who provided sperm to a physician for insemination into his unmarried partner from legal parentage status even where the father had a father-son relationship with his child. The decision allowed the biological father to obtain legal status as the child’s father where he could meet certain legal criteria. Prior to that time, statutes and decisional law precluded the biological father from obtaining such status, distinguishing them from fathers who were married to the child’s mother at the time of conception.
We are pleased to announce that another of our clients has now obtained legal parentage status by application of the principles set forth in Jason P. In a recent memorandum of decision, the court found that our client, a father who had a relationship with his son who was conceived through fertility procedures with a female friend, met the criteria set forth in the Family Code as modified by Jason P. The court declared that he would also be the legal father of his little boy over the mother’s objections. In this case, the father had been a part of the child’s life from birth until the child’s mother attempted to sever the relationship at age two, arguing that he was a “sperm donor” under the Family Code and therefore barred from ever obtaining legal parentage of his son. After several months of estrangement enforced by the mother, the court made temporary custody and visitation orders pending trial which took place over the summer. It is unfortunate that the law allows one parent to take such a position, causing significant emotional distress to the child and the other parent, not to mention the expense of having to mount a legal battle in order to obtain formal parentage rights that a married father would never have to incur. Thanks to the Jason P. decision, and our legal work, the child at issue in these proceedings will not have to go through life without his father.
And it seems that the reasoning behind Jason P. continues to have impact outside of California. Jason P. stands for the proposition that where the biological father can establish that he meets the criteria of parentage applicable to other men, and has a familial relationship with the child and mother, he should not be precluded from obtaining parentage status, which would be detrimental to the child. The bar to parentage that existed prior to this decision arose out of the Uniform Parentage Act, a set of statutes enacted in varying forms in most states of the United States. Just last month, a Court of Appeal in New York State overturned a decades old law barring a non-adoptive, non-biological caretaker from obtaining parentage status. In Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C. C., the Court of Appeal ruled that a woman who had raised a child with her lesbian partner, but who had been cut off from the child after the couple broke-up and prior to the enactment of same-sex marriage laws in New York, had a right to prove parentage based on her relationship with the child. Recognizing the importance of making these decisions from the child’s point of view, courts around the country are recognizing that children establish relationships with parents regardless of the structure in which the family is created. This trend, recognized in Jason P., is one that will benefit children in the future given the drastic changes that have taken place in the structure of families in the recent past and we welcome it.