The Maine Parentage Act became effective July 1, 2016. Senator Roger Katz was one of the co-sponsors of this law which was intended to update Maine’s family law to be consistent with today’s parenting. The Maine Parentage Act can be found in Chapter 61 of Title 19-A, M.R.S.A. §1831 through §1938. Here are some important things to know about the Maine Parentage Act.
1) The act is non-discriminatory and provides, in part: "every child has the same rights under the law as any other child without regard to the marital status or gender of the parents or the circumstances of the child's birth."
2) Persons who may bring proceedings to establish parentage include (See 19-A Section 1835):
a) A child
b) The woman who gave birth to the child
c) A person whose parentage is to be adjudicated/determined
e) A representative of the individual who is authorized by law to act for an individual who would otherwise be able to maintain a proceeding but who is deceased, incapacitated or a minor
3) Maine Rules of Evidence have provided a presumption of parentage for the spouse of the child’s mother. The MPA now “codifies” this – makes it part of the statute.
4) The Maine Parentage Act provides in certain circumstances that an unmarried partner of a child's mother can be recognized as the child's legal parent. Section 1881(3) (Nonmarital presumption established) states: "A person is presumed to be a parent of a child if the person resided in the same household with the child and openly held out the child as that person's own from the time the child was born or adopted and for a period of at least two years thereafter and assumed personal, financial or custodial responsibilities for the child." A presumption such as this may be rebutted only by a court determination.
5) The Act recognizes legal parentage of children born using assisted reproduction.
6) A court may determine that a child has more than two parents (i.e., mother, father and de facto parent.)
7) A proceeding to challenge the parentage of an individual whose parentage is presumed under the statute must be commenced not later than two years after the birth of the child except under limited circumstances.
8) The statute provides that parentage may be established by:
e. De facto parentage
f. Genetic parentage
g. Assisted reproduction
h. Gestational carrier agreement
9) A donor (a person who contributes a gamete or gametes or an embryo or embryos to another person for assisted reproduction or gestation, whether or not for compensation) is not a parent of a child born through assisted reproduction unless the contribution is used for assisted reproduction for the donor's spouse or the donor has been deemed a parent in a written agreement with the child's other parents. See Title 19-A §1832 and 1922.
10) The Maine Parentage Act regulates gestational carrier agreements, including standards for eligibility to be a gestational carrier and eligibility to be an intended parent or parents. A gestational carrier agreement must meet specific requirements set forth in the statute. See Title 19-A §1931. A gestational carrier under the statute is an adult woman who is not an intended parent and who enters into a gestational carrier agreement to bear a child using gametes of other persons and not her own except as set forth in the statute. See Title 19-A §1832(10).
A person who is considering either establishing or challenging parentage should consult with an attorney with experience in handling family law matters. Under the Maine Parentage Act, there are specific provisions that must be adhered to in many instances to protect one's rights.