A child cannot have three legal parents under the Uniform Parentage Act, a California appeals court ruled May 6 in “In Re M.C.” — remanding the case to the Los Angeles trial court which must pick two of the three as legal parents before proceeding with the further question of where to place the child.
Although in the abstract, it pits gay rights against parents’ rights, this is the kind of case that ought to be decided based on its particular factual situation. This is not the case of an ideal, cute couple and their cool, adorable sperm-donor friend, which the TV version would be. The opinion says the mother had a “stormy relationship” with her domestic partner, with “several episodes of domestic violence.” The mother left her, met the father, got pregnant by him, and then lived with the father for a few weeks. She left him to reconcile with her partner, and they married before the child was born. Three or four weeks later, she left again. The father, meanwhile, had supported the mother when she lived together, and later sent money and a signed paternity declaration. When a new boyfriend attacked her wife with a knife, the baby ended up in state custody, the mother went to jail, and the father asked for custody.
The appeals court said that all three were “presumed parents” under the UPA, but only two could be the actual parents, and that the lower court should now apply the test from the case of “Kelsey S.” 4 Cal. Rptr. 2d 615 (1992) to see if we was a “constitutionally presumed father” -- one who “comes forward at the first opportunity to assert his parental rights after learning of the child’s existence, but has been prevented from becoming a statutorily presumed father under [UPA] Sec. 7611 by the unilateral conduct of the child’s mother or a third party’s interference.” Section 7611 requires the father to have “received the child into his home” -- something that many unwed fathers might not have occasion to do even if they are available and involved parents.