Connecticut Parentage Act’s Impact on Families, Estate Planning, and Inheritance
In January of this year, Connecticut passed a law known as the “Connecticut Parentage Act”: legislation modernizing the parentage law by creating accessible pathways for non-biological parents – regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or marital status - to establish legal relationships with their child. The act has important implications for Connecticut family law, as well as Trust and Estate law, for purposes of estate planning and inheritance.
Historically, parentage was established biologically, establishing one mother and one father for every child. However, over time, families have changed significantly due to adoption, surrogacy and even an increase in the creation of blended families. A person’s status as a parent has always conferred rights and responsibilities, and the Connecticut Parentage Act recognizes that there are circumstances where individuals who may not be biological parents should have both. As a result of this legislation, Connecticut’s statutes applicable to family law and estate planning will now no longer refer to “mothers” and “fathers” but rather to “parents” to reflect this definitional modification.
Under the Connecticut Parentage Act, the establishment of a “parent” is not limited to biological considerations. Connecticut courts can now consider a host of factors not previously recognized to determine whether a particular individual should be eligible for rights such as parental access, custody, and decision making on behalf of a child. These considerations may allow the following individuals to be adjudicated parents: those who reside with a child and openly regard the child as his or her own over a sustained period of time; those who provide financial support to a child; and individuals who are married at the time of a child’s birth, or who were married but divorce prior to the birth of a child by one spouse. Some of these definitions are legally specific, and a court will always have the obligation to adjudicate parentage based upon the “best interests of the child” standard, which has generally been applicable to custody determinations in the past.
However, these broader definitions under the Connecticut Parentage Act create situations where more than two people may be adjudicated as the parents of a child. This means that all of the rights previously associated with biological parentage – such as custody, parental access, and inheritance – can be conferred upon more than two people for each child.
In addition, the obligations associated with status as a parent can now be shared amongst more than two individuals. Those adjudicated to be parents can be ordered to pay child support, to contribute to post-secondary educational expenses, and to share other child-related expenses that previously fell only to “mothers” and “fathers.” Although Connecticut has not yet modified its Child Support Guidelines to specifically indicate how this will work, this is an important change in the law which will impact child support.
Further, rights of inheritance that previously included children, grandchildren, and other issue resulting from birth or adoption now include children that are the product of surrogacy arrangements or adjudication by a court, based upon some of the factors outlined in this article. Accordingly, clients creating estate plans may wish to consider these issues in creating their own estate planning documents.
As the Connecticut Parentage Act recognizes the diversity of families, it ensures all Connecticut children have equal access to a legal parent-child relationship. If you have specific questions regarding the Connecticut Parentage Act or how it might impact your family, please contact a member of Cohen and Wolf’s Family Law Practice Group or our Trusts and Estates Group. Our team of attorneys are dedicated to protecting your family’s rights and assets, and to assisting clients in navigating applicable Connecticut statutes.