ULC

Why States Should Adopt UPA

The Uniform Parentage Act, promulgated in 1973 and adopted in 19 states, was revised in 2000, and amended in 2002.  Since 1973, there have been numerous developments, both legally and scientifically, that have affected issues of parentage.  The 2002 Uniform Parentage Act addresses these modern developments.  The new Act integrates the 1973 Uniform Parentage Act, as well as two other uniform acts, the Uniform Putative and Unknown Fathers Act and the Uniform Status of Children of Assisted Conception Act, thus creating a single coherent act.

The 2002 Uniform Parentage Act, in contrast to the 1973 act, generally does not address issues of parental rights, custody, visitation, and support, leaving these to existing state law.  The purpose of the 2002 Uniform Parentage Act is to provide workable and sound rules for determining the parentage of a child.  The primary focus of the new act’s provisions is to protect the child involved in parentage issues.  Among these important provisions are the following:

Child Support.  The efficient and fair establishment of paternity means more children will have child support, no matter the marital status of the parents.

Establishment of parent-child relationship.  The act determines when a parent-child relationship is established.  This includes when a woman gives birth to the child, when there is an unrebutted presumption of a man’s paternity of the child, when a man or a woman adopts the child, or as determined through adjudication.

Presumption of paternity.  The act sets out when paternity is presumed in the context of marriage.  Also, the act discusses the effect of a termination of marriage.  These provisions are basically unchanged from the 1973 act.  The act, as amended in 2002, also codifies the common law presumption applicable to a man who resided in the same household as the child during its first two years of life, and openly held the child out as his own.  Beyond these presumptions, however, the new act does not carry forward all of the presumptions contained in the 1973 act, because of the capacity of genetic testing to establish paternity with nearly absolute certainty.

Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.   A father may admit paternity by acknowledgment, thereby avoiding the need for a paternity action.  This simplifies obtaining child support.  Generally, under the act, a knowing acknowledgment of paternity is equivalent to a judicial determination of paternity.

Rescission of acknowledgment of paternity.  An adjudicatory process is required to rescind a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.  Also, after the expiration of the time for rescission, one may be able to challenge an acknowledgment. 

Registry of paternity.  A man who has properly registered will be given notice of a proceeding for adoption of, or termination of parental rights to, a child he may have fathered.  If the man does not register, is not exempt from registering, and the child is less than one year old, his parental rights may be terminated without notice.  If the child is at least one year old, then parental rights cannot be terminated without notice, regardless of registration.

Genetic testing.  Genetic testing determines paternity with almost 100% reliability.  The act contains provisions governing the ordering of, and the procedures for, genetic testing.

Proceeding to adjudicate parentage.   The proceeding to adjudicate parentage is a civil proceeding by the court without a jury.  The provisions set out some special rules governing the proceeding.  For example, the provisions specifically discuss the admissibility of genetic testing. 

Effect of final order determining parentage.  The act states who is bound by the court’s final order determining parentage.  A child will be not be bound unless the parentage order is based on genetic testing or the child was represented by an attorney ad litem.

Assisted reproduction.  A sperm or egg donor is not a legal parent of any child conceived.  A married woman who used assisted reproduction and her husband must sign a record giving consent to become legal parents.  The provisions also set limits on when a husband may dispute paternity when his wife gives birth to a child through assisted reproduction.

Reproduction after Divorce or Death.  A person whose egg or sperm is preserved may not be the legal parent of a child conceived after the death of that person or after divorce from a spouse, without consent made on a record.

Gestational agreement (optional provisions).  A court may validate a gestational agreement.  A nonvalidated agreement will not be enforceable.  However, the intended parents under a nonvalidated gestational agreement may still be held liable for support of the resulting child.  A validated agreement may be terminated before the gestational mother becomes pregnant; notice of termination must be given to the court. 

UNIFORMITY

Particularly through case law, states have given differing treatment to the issue of determination of parentage.  The 2002 Uniform Parentage Act provides uniformity in this area of law.  This revised act also addresses the modern needs and concerns involved in parentage that have developed due to advances in science and developments in the law over the years.  Furthermore, the act meets federal law requirements that are involved in the determination of parentage.   The 2002 Uniform Parentage Act is an important revision and integration of prior uniform laws, which every state should adopt.