Being Adjudged as a Third Parent in California

Biological Father and [BF] had a relationship in Mother [M] in 2015, while M was also in a relationship with Presumed Father [PF].  M first told BF that she was pregnant and he was the father.  She later told him that based on her doctor’s estimate of conception, BF could not be the father.  M’s son [S] was born in July of 2016.  PF signed a voluntary declaration of parentage and was listed on S’s certificate as S’s father.  Seven months after S’s birth, M married PF.  In July of 2017, a daughter [D] was born to M and PF.  D had a rare genetic condition that was not present in S, so M asked BF if he would take a DNA test to determine whether he was S’s biological father.  BF took the test, and was shown to be S’s biological father.

After the DNA test, M allowed BF to spend brief periods of time with S, but after about nine visits, she determined that the interactions were not in S’s best interests.  According to the trial court, “there have been no real visits nor was there evidence of any type of bonding between [BF] and [S].”  BF hired an attorney and filed his petition to establish his parental rights to S.  M and PF both filed responses to BF’s petition requesting dismissal; M as S’s mother, and PF because of his voluntary declaration of parentage.  BF clarified his petition.  He wanted to be declared as S’s third parent under California Family Code Section 7612(c).

The trial court denied BF’s request for third parent status because BF did not show any evidence that recognizing only two parents would be detrimental to S.  BF spent very brief periods of time with S, nor did he provide for S’s financial and emotional welfare.

BF appealed, and the Appellate Court agreed with the trial court:

“A request to be adjudged a third parent is governed by section 7612, subdivision (c). According to that provision, ‘In an appropriate action, a court may find that more than two persons with a claim to parentage under this division are parents if the court finds that recognizing only two parents would be detrimental to the child. In determining detriment to the child, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the harm of removing the child from a stable placement with a parent who has fulfilled the child’s physical needs and the child’s psychological needs for care and affection, and who has assumed that role for a substantial period of time. A finding of detriment to the child does not require a finding of unfitness of any of the parents or persons with a claim to parentage.’”

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