The Uniform Parentage Act, or “UPA,” is a law that governs cases involving the parentage of children. This law governs the parentage of children for both married and unmarried couples. Specifically, the UPA focuses on legal framework concerning paternity law. The Uniform Parentage Act establishes:
- Processes for establishing paternity through voluntary acknowledgement;
- Standards for genetic paternity testing; and
- Processes for determining paternity through the court system.
This set of uniform rules can be adopted by state legislatures, and grants equal rights for children regardless of their parents’ marital status. The Uniform Parentage Act is utilized to officially establish a parent-child relationship between a child and their unmarried parents. This is necessary because established parentage is required for:
- Child support orders;
- Health insurance;
- Child custody and visitation rights;
- Name changes;
- Reimbursement of pregnancy and birth expenses; and
- Restraining orders.
It is also important to establish parentage, specifically paternity, so the child may secure certain benefits. These benefits include social security, veteran’s benefits, and inheritance rights. The UPA has undergone several revisions, with the most commonly cited version being the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002. All states have adopted some form of the UPA. However, only some states have adopted the 2002 revision. These states include:
- North Dakota;
- Wyoming; and
It is important to note that some other states may be in the process of revising their Uniform Parentage Act statute, or implementing changes to their statutes. Therefore, you should consult with a local attorney if you have any questions regarding your state’s implementation of the UPA.
What Is the Relationship Between the Uniform Parentage Act, and Paternity?
As previously mentioned, the Uniform Parentage Act specifically focuses on legal processes concerning paternity. This is because it is fairly simple to establish who a child’s biological mother is; if there is any question as to who the child’s biological father is, it can be a bit more difficult.
One of the most significant changes under the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002 concerns which person may bring a paternity suit before a court. In many states, only specific people are allowed to file a paternity action in court. However, in states that have adopted the 2002 revision of the UPA, any interested party is allowed to file a paternity complaint on behalf of the child.
In addition to expanding who may file paternity action, the UPA has expanded the legal definition of “father.” This expanded definition includes:
- The presumed father, or, the person married to the child’s mother at the time of conception;
- The presumed father, or, the person who lived with the child during the child’s first two years of life;
- A man acknowledging paternity;
- A man determined to be the child’s father by a previous court order, or through arbitration;
- Adoptive fathers; and
- A man who has consented to assisted reproduction, such as a sperm donor.
Additionally, there are many other changes to paternity law that have been brought about by the Uniform Parentage Act. Many of these changes are related to advancements in technology, such as assisted conception and genetic testing. The UPA may continue to be revised and expanded to match further advancements in family law.
How Else May Paternity Be Defined?
Often, the legally recognized father of a child is not necessarily the child’s biological father. Some states categorize fathers according to the Uniform Parentage Act. However, some states categorize fathers in the following ways:
- Acknowledged Father: An acknowledged father is an unmarried man who has admitted to being the child’s father. Acknowledged fathers must usually pay child support;
- Presumed Father: A presumed father is a married man who was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born; legally agreed to be the father of his wife’s child; or, acted and behaved as if the child was his own;
- Unwed Father: An unwed father is an unmarried man who has a child with a woman, and must pay child support if a court finds that he is the biological or acknowledged father of the child. An unwed father who pays child support may also be granted visitation rights with their child; and
- Stepfather: A stepfather is a man who marries a person who has had a child with someone else. Stepfathers have no duty to support the child and, therefore, no rights to the child. However, if a stepchild legally adopts their stepchild with the biological father’s consent, they are granted rights as well as the obligation to financially support the child.
Do I Need an Attorney if I Have Questions About the Uniform Parentage Act and Paternity?
As noted above, paternity laws vary from state to state. Therefore, you should contact a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney if you have any questions regarding the UPA and paternity.
An experienced family law attorney can help you understand how your state’s paternity laws adhere to the UPA. Finally, an attorney may file any necessary legal paperwork on your behalf to terminate or establish your parental rights, and you in court as needed.