When California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed The Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Act, groups that advocate for non-biological parents were justifiably pleased. The new law, authored by San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill, allows California family courts some discretion to grant parental rights to individuals who have an established relationship with a child, even if a biological father has stepped forward with a voluntary declaration of paternity.
The new law allows courts to take into account existing bonds between a child and an individual whom they have recognized as a parent in adoption proceedings. The bill, which has major implications for individuals in same-sex relationships, passed in both the Senate and Assembly with considerable majorities.
The central change going forward is how California law will deal with conflicting presumptions with respect to parentage. Prior to passage of the bill, a man was presumed to be the father of a child if he was married to or cohabitating with the biological mother, but parenthood would also be presumed if a man had signed a voluntary declaration of paternity.
The California Family Code now provides that a voluntary declaration of paternity is invalid if the child already had a “presumed parent” at the time the declaration was signed, or if the man signing the declaration is a sperm donor. Presumed parenthood will be based on the court’s consideration of a variety of factors, including “the nature, duration, and quality of the petitioning party’s relationship with the child” in deciding whether to set aside the voluntary declaration of paternity.