California Law Limits Paternity’s Influence on Adoption Proceedings

A California law passed this week limits the extent to which paternity status can halt adoption proceedings.

Assembly Bill 1049, signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday, clarifies a judge’s ability to consider an offer or refusal to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity as a factor in establishing or terminating parental rights, according to a press release from California Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R), who introduced the bill.

The California Academy of Adoption Attorneys (CAAA) sponsored the bill in the wake of the California Court of Appeals’ decision in a case known as Adoption of Baby Boy W. In 2014, a man won a court appeal in California that enabled him to take custody of his biological son after another family had already adopted him.

The boy’s mother, Jacqueline W., had terminated her parental rights and placed the child for adoption the day after his birth.

The presumed father, Garrett W., was not on the boy’s birth certificate because the mother had denied Garrett’s requests that she sign a voluntary declaration of paternity that would have established him as the boy’s presumed father by law, according to court documents.

A judge ruled that Garrett W.’s offer to declare paternity of the child gave him the right to veto the adoption. After the decision, Baby Boy W. was removed from the adoptive parents with whom he was placed, according to a summary of the case.

CAAA Fellow Allison Foster Davis said that Adoption of Baby Boy W. created uncertainty and could lead to more situations in which a mother places her child for adoption and the baby’s father later declares parental rights.

“We want people to know upfront what their rights are, and if the father has veto rights, that baby should not be placed for adoption,” Davis said.

The new law states that “a person’s offer or refusal to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity may be considered as a factor, but shall not be determinative as to the issue of legal parentage in any proceedings regarding the establishment or termination of parental rights.”

“It will not affect the specific people involved in that case,” said Patterson’s communications director, Alisha Gallon, in an e-mail. “However, AB 1049 does overrule the portion of Baby Boy W. that said that any many who offers to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity is automatically entitled to presumed father status.”

A.B. 1094 also requires parents working with an egg donor to deposit funds for health care expenses in an independent, bonded escrow account or a trust account maintained by an attorney.

Creating such accounts was already required of parents working with surrogate mothers, but A.B.1094 extends the requirement to egg donors to prevent them from being exploited and left to pay for the expenses themselves.

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