The Connecticut Parentage Act (the “Act”), enacted January 1, 2022, provides major updates to parentage laws in Connecticut.
Effective January 1, 2022, the Act is intended to create clear and accessible pathways to legal parentage and intended to ensure gender equality and all gender access to legal parentage. The Act is largely based on the Uniform Parentage Act of 2017, drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
Previously in Connecticut, non-biological LGBTQ parents could only establish parentage through the marital presumption, a surrogacy agreement, or co-parent adoption. Parents may now sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage form, previously titled an “Acknowledgment of Paternity.” The Acknowledgment must be signed by the birth parent and the other parent who can be either a genetic parent, an intended parent of a child born through assisted reproduction other than surrogacy, or a presumed parent.
The Act updates provisions regarding “intended parents,” now defined as a person, married or unmarried, who consents to assisted reproduction with the intent to be a parent of the resulting child. Numerous provisions within the Act include updated terminology such as “parentage” or “person,” in lieu of “paternity” or “father.” The Act also provides updated provisions regarding surrogacy.
Effective July 1, 2022, the Act provides a path to parentage for a “de facto parent,” an individual who, with support of an existing parent, becomes a parent of the child through parental conduct and care. The de facto parent must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, the following seven factors: (1) the person resided with the child as a regular member of the child’s household for at least one year, unless the court finds good cause to accept a shorter period of residence as a regular member of the child’s household; (2) the person engaged in consistent caretaking of the child which may include regularly caring for the child’s needs and making day-to-day decisions regarding the child individually or cooperatively with another legal parent; (3) the person undertook full and permanent responsibilities of a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation; (4) the person held out the child as the person’s child; (5) the person established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child that is parental in nature; (6) another parent of the child fostered or supported the bonded and dependent relationship required under subdivision (5) of this subsection; (7) continuing the relationship between the person and the child is in the best interest of the child. This individual was not a parent at the birth of the child, nor biologically related, but has since established a parent relationship with the child. This is a brand-new cause of action in Connecticut and parentage must be established through adjudication.
Under the Act, a child can now have more than two legal parents if there is a basis for a third person to be adjudicated. The third parent must satisfy either presumed, intended, or de facto parent. The court is only permitted to adjudicate a third legal parent if it finds that failure to recognize more than two parents would be detrimental to the child. The court must consider the best interest factors, including the harm if the child is removed from a stable placement with a person who has fulfilled the child’s physical needs and psychological needs for care and affection and has assumed the role for a substantial period. A cause of action for three legal parents will likely be few and far between, as the barriers to establishing a third legal parent are high. The Act is unlikely to open the floodgates for grandparents, relatives, and friends to successfully file for parentage.
While the Child Support Guidelines currently provide for two parents, the Act does not provide specific guidance on support requirements for three legal parents. The Act states, “The child support guidelines established pursuant to section 46b-215 of the general statutes shall not apply until such guidelines have been revised to address the circumstances when a child has more than two parents, and until such revision is effective, a court of competent jurisdiction shall consider the child support guidelines and the criteria for such awards established in sections 46b-84 of the general statutes, 46b-86 of the general statutes, 46b-130 of the general statutes, 46b-171 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, 46b-172 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, 46b-215 of the general statutes, as amended by this act, 17b-179 of the general statutes, and 17b-745 of the general statutes in making or modifying orders of support of the child.” It is not yet clear how the court will determine child support orders where a child has more than two parents.
In sum, access to legal parentage has been vastly expanded, providing greater inclusivity. The Act seeks to ensure gender equality in parentage, creates a new avenue to access to legal parentage, provides the means to protect LGBTQ couples and their children, and provides a path for families formed through assisted reproduction.
David McGrath is the managing partner at Louden, Katz & McGrath, LLC where he has practiced exclusively in the area of family law for over a decade.
Ashley A. Cervin is an Associate at Louden, Katz & McGrath, LLC, practicing family law.
You can read a copy of the passed bill here.