Below Bill discusses the recent NJ Court Ruling on how it is defining a “legal” parent. The post can also be viewed on the Rainbow Families of New Jersey Facebook page.
Upfront: I am an attorney who has practiced LGBT family law in NJ for 40 years.
There is a common misbelief in our community that marriage equality equals parentage equality. Getting the second non-bio parent’s name on the birth certificate is proof of parentage.
That assumption is wrong.
Just yesterday, a NJ court ruled that there are only three ways to be a legal parent in NJ — by gestating the child, by contributing genetic material to create the child or by adoption. This statement follows a ruling by the NJ Supreme Court.
We are all familiar with birth certificates. They are the document one uses to prove identity. But the courts have held that “a child’s birth certificate only records parentage as reported by others and neither constitutes a legal holding of parentage nor independently creates or terminates parental rights.“
All non-bio parents need to protect themselves – whether a non-bio mom or dad, including a trans dad or mom, if they did not gestate the child, contribute genetic material or adopt.
In the case cited above a non-bio dad was found not to be a legal parent, although the child had his last name. He had not gestated, contributed genetic material or adopted.
Non-bio parents who have not confirmed their parentage and their children are at risk should there be a controversy with the bio parent. There is an epidemic of cases like this throughout the US. Just like the case above.
In addition, lack of legal parentage can disqualify your child for government benefits like Social Security. Social Security does not accept a birth certificate as proof of parentage for a non-bio parent. SS wants to see the adoption order.
Please consult with an experienced LGBT family lawyer to understand the complexity and nuances of parentage laws to make sure that your parentage is protected.