California Court Discusses Third-Party Parental Rights

California is unique in that it allows for three people to be deemed the parents of a child. For example, a child may have a mother and two fathers. Simply because a person is entitled to status as the presumed father of a child does not mean they should be granted parental rights, though. Recently, a California court discussed the factors evaluated in determining whether to grant a party third-parent status in an opinion issued in a matter in which a child’s biological father sought custody rights. If you need assistance with a custody matter, it is advisable to confer with a knowledgeable San Diego child custody lawyer to determine your options for seeking a just outcome.

The History of the Case

It is reported that in 2015, the mother had two romantic relationships that overlapped: one with the third-party father and one with the father. She became pregnant and advised the third-party father that he was not the father of the child, based on the information from her doctor regarding the date of conception. The father signed a voluntary declaration of parentage and was listed on the child’s birth certificate. She later married the father.

Allegedly, a few years later, the mother determined that the third-party father was the biological father of her child, which was confirmed via DNA testing. She permitted the third-party father to visit with the child on a few occasions but later advised him she did not believe it was in the child’s best interest for them to form a relationship. The third-party father filed a petition to establish a third-party parent relationship with the child. The court denied the petition, and the third-party father appealed.

Factors Weighed in Determining Whether to Grant Third-Party Rights

Pursuant to California law, a person qualifies as the natural parent of a child either by giving birth or meeting one of the numerous statutory methods for becoming a natural parent. Notably, biological fatherhood, in and of itself, does not automatically grant a person presumed father status under the applicable law.

Instead, presumed father status is based on the familial relationship between a man and a child, not the biological connection between the two parties. A man may also qualify as the presumed father of a child via conclusive presumption of paternity and by executing a voluntary declaration of parentage. While a man may move to set aside another man’s voluntary declaration of parentage, the third-party father made no attempt to do so. Instead, he admitted the father was the child’s legally recognized parent and requested to be adjudged as a third parent to the child.

The court explained that in cases in which a party asks a court to recognize that a child truly has three parents, the court would only grant the request in cases in which the petitioner has an existing relationship with the child, such that denying the motion would be detrimental to the child. As no such relationship existed in the present case, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned California Family Law Attorney

People who are unjustly denied the opportunity to parent their children may be able to take legal action to protect their rights. If you are engaged in a dispute over child custody, it is smart to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible. The seasoned San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC are adept at helping people pursue favorable results in child custody proceedings, and if you hire us, we will advocate assertively on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or by calling 800-769-4748 to schedule a confidential and free consultation.



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