With the jubilation over the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, a misapprehension has arisen that just being married confers legal parentage. Don’t be confused. Marriage and parentage are intertwined, but they are not equal and should not be conflated.
Vital Statistics puts the spouse of a woman who gives birth on a birth certificate based on a marital presumption — it is presumed that the mother’s spouse is biologically the second parent of the child. Because it is a presumption, it can be rebutted by proof that the named individual is not biologically related to the child.
When a birth certificate has been challenged, courts have consistently held that the birth certificate is only an administrative record of what was reported. A birth certificate cannot convey or terminate parentage.
Everyone uses birth certificates in daily life. Yet, a birth certificate is merely indicia of parentage — it is not proof of parentage. For example, agencies like Social Security have denied benefits to a child when the non-biological parent only had a birth certificate to prove her parentage.
Parentage comes in many forms. Laws about parentage are nuanced. They change from state to state, as well as internationally.
If a person is not biologically related to a child, she must obtain a judicial adoption or parentage order to confirm parentage.