By Attorney D. Jeanne Messick
The CT Parentage Act. In 2022, the Connecticut Parentage Act (let’s refer to it as “CPA”) went into effect, changing who may be considered “children” and “descendants” of a person with a connection to Connecticut (through the residence of the parent or the child). Under the CPA, the term “parent” is no longer limited to a genetic mother or father, or a person who legally adopts a child. Instead, a person’s involvement in a child’s life may now form a basis for a parental relationship. Several other states have also adopted a form of the Uniform Parentage Act, upon which CPA is based.
New Defined Terms under CPA: Intended Parent, Presumed Parent and De Facto Parent. CPA introduces three ways to establish parentage without any genetic relationship or legal adoption.
An “Intended Parent” is a party to a Surrogacy Agreement (signed prior to the start of the medical procedure) who has not contributed genetic material to the birth of a child resulting from assistive reproductive technology. One party to the Surrogacy Agreement must be a Connecticut resident for CPA to apply. There are age and mental health requirements for these agreements to be upheld in Connecticut.
A “Presumed Parent” is a spouse of a birth parent if the child is born during the parties’ marriage or within 300 days of the end of the parties’ marriage. A “Presumed Parent” may also result if that person resided with the birth parent at the child’s birth or adoption and for at least two years thereafter, and the person openly held out the child as his/her own-BUT the person must also sign a valid written acknowledgment (form to be approved by CT Dept of Public Health) or must be established through a Court acknowledgement.
A “De Facto Parent” is a person who initiates a judicial proceeding in the Family Division of the CT Superior Court for that purpose, and establishes residence in the same household with the child for 1+ year, is engaged in consistent caretaking, and the Court finds, among other factors, that the continuing relationship is in the child’s best interests. These proceedings must be started prior to the child’s 18th birthday. The judge may grant de facto parentage even if the child already has two parents. There is no termination of the genetic parent’s parental rights.
How Does CPA Affect Your Estate Planning Documents? Wills and Trusts often refer to the terms “child”, “children”, “issue” and “descendants.” The CPA applies to inheritance rights of parents leaving assets to their descendants and to unmarried children who predecease their parents leaving no descendants. It becomes important to define these terms if you do not wish nongenetic descendants to inherit should a child predecease you. The passage of CPA will give rights in probate to persons who are now considered to be in the class of descendants to be notified of the contents of the Will, and allow them to contest the Will if omitted. You probably know the identities of your children whom you wish to benefit, but you do not have control over who your child’s descendants will be.
In light of CPA, some decisions you need to make when planning or revising your estate plan follow below.
Should your descendants under your Will be defined to include:
Only a genetic or legally adopted descendant of your child?
A person for whom your child and the birth parent have signed an acknowledgement of parentage?
A person raised by your child before that person reaches the age of 18?
A non-genetic descendant of your child with whom your child resided for more than one year and for whom the Court adjudicated that your child is a de facto parent?
A child conceived through a surrogacy agreement or assisted reproduction technology for whom your child is the intended parent?
Action Plan. Often certain milestones in life (marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or child, for example) warrant a review of even the most carefully crafted estate plan. One of these milestones includes changes in the law. We can assist you with review of your estate planning documents, or first-time creation of Will and trust documents. Please contact Attorney D. Jeanne Messick for a consultation at 860-388-3456 ext. 203. We look forward to serving you!
Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact the lawyers at Cloutier & Cassella, LLC. The use of the Internet or this blog information for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.