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How the Connecticut Parentage Act Impacts Parents’ Rights in Child Custody Disputes?

The Connecticut Parentage Act (CPA) takes effect on January 1, 2022. The goal of the new, groundbreaking law, which was passed in June 2021, is to fill gaps that fail to protect many parent-child relationships. The CPA clarifies who qualifies as a parent and how individuals can establish parentage, while ensuring equal access to legal parentage for all, including same-gender, unmarried, or non-biological parents.

How does the CPA affect parentage for married same-sex couples?

The CPA was designed to modernize the rules regarding legal parent-child relationships. Following the legalization of same-sex marriage, courts have struggled with how to apply parentage presumptions in a gender-neutral manner. The new law addresses this in several ways.

For starters, the CPA replaces gender-specific terms, such as using “parentage” in lieu of maternity and paternity. It also recognizes that parentage presumptions do not only reflect biology. Traditionally, when a child is born to a married man and woman, it is presumed that the woman’s husband fathered the child. The CPA extends that presumption to married same-gender couples. Now, if two women or two men have a child during marriage, it is considered a child of the marriage.

Previously, a non-biological parent in a same-sex marriage had to go to court to claim parentage; now that individual will be presumed to be a parent. When the child is born, the birth parent and non-birth parent will fill out and sign a simple voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form at the hospital claiming parentage. Further, married same-sex couples who already have a child will now be able to fill out a simple Acknowledgement of Parentage form.

How does the CPA affect parentage for unmarried non-biological parents?

The Connecticut Parentage Act provides unmarried non-biological parents with a pathway to full parentage. The nonmarital presumption of parentage presumes someone is a parent when that person “jointly, with another legal parent, resided in the same household with the child and openly held out the child as the person’s own child from the time the child was born…and for a period of at least two years thereafter.”

When these criteria are satisfied, the person can formally establish their parentage by signing an Acknowledgment of Parentage form, which also must be signed by birth parent. Equal treatment will be given to the two parents, and neither will have the right to exclude the other from their child’s life. If the birth parent refuses to sign the Acknowledgement of Parentage form, the non-biological parent can seek adjudication to claim his or her rights.

The law also allows individuals who came to play a parental role at a time later than the child’s birth to seek an adjudication that they are a “de facto” parent of the child. This requires demonstrating through evidence that certain circumstances exist, such as that the individual seeking to be adjudicated a parent has formed a parent-child relationship that was actively supported by the other parent. The point of “de facto” parentage is to ensure that people who formed a strong parent-child relationship are not excluded from being a parent just because they entered the child’s life after the child was born. The provisions pertaining to “de facto” parentage do not take effect until July 1, 2022.

The CPA’s aim is to be as inclusive as possible for every family dynamic. The law has a carve-out, however, that provides an avenue to contest parentage if the child is age 2 or younger and if certain conditions are met.

How does the CPA impact child custody when parents separate?

Connecticut courts presume that joint custody is in the best interest of the child when both parents agree to this. When there is a dispute over custody, the court will determine custody after looking at a number of factors to decide what is in the best interest of the child.

Your rights with regard to the custody of your child will be determined in accordance with the CPA. Depending on your individual situation, the CPA may have afforded you additional rights, and you may need to take additional steps to protect your rights. It is important that you speak to a family law attorney with expertise in Connecticut divorce law as early in the process as possible.

I am a non-biological parent in a same-sex marriage, and my child was born during our marriage. If I divorce, what would be my rights in a custody dispute?

After January 1, 2022, you may plead in your divorce case that the child was born during your marriage; under the CPA this will entitle you to equal parental rights with your spouse.

However, to help protect your rights, it is advisable that you fill out an Acknowledgement of Parentage form as soon as possible after January 1, 2022.

I am a non-biological parent who has lived with my child’s biological parent since our child’s birth. What should I do to protect my rights in the event of a custody dispute?

To protect your rights, fill out an Acknowledgement of Parentage form as soon as possible after January 1, 2022. If you plan to separate, it is advisable that you talk to an attorney with expertise in Connecticut family law as early in the process as possible. Depending on your situation and the age of your child, it may be advisable to err on the side of caution and go through the adoption process.

What about if we leave Connecticut? Will the CPA protect my parental rights in other states?

It is a valid concern to wonder whether your parental rights would be protected in other states since the Connecticut Parentage Act is not a federal law. However, the voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage is considered a judgment, with the full force of a legal judgment.

That being said, some individuals ask if they should err on the side of caution and go through the process of adopting their child, to ensure their rights will be protected in other states, especially states that have not adopted any version of the Uniform Parentage Act. Since the law is still new and has not yet been litigated, it is difficult to predict how it will play out in other states in actuality. It is advisable that you consult with a family law attorney about your specific situation.

Whether you are a biological or non-biological parent, our family law attorneys at Ruel Ruel Burns & Britt can provide you with expert guidance regarding child custody rights. Contact us at 860-206-9096.