Earlier this summer, which feels like a lifetime ago in these COVID times, the Rhode Island Governor signed the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act into law. The law, which had been considered in four previous legislative sessions, and takes effect January 1, 2021, repeals current laws regarding paternity and ensures equal access to the security of legal parentage. Rhode Island was long overdue for this update as the paternity laws had not been updated in over forty years, and the laws as previously written did not recognize today’s broader definition of family.
Some of the highlights of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act include the following:
- The law allows for LGBTQ couples to establish parentage through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, negating the necessity of having to undertake a lengthy, and potentially expensive, co-parent adoption process to establish legal parentage.
- The law creates a path to parentage and provides protections for children born through surrogacy.
- The law expands the paths to legal parentage, including through adoption, acknowledgment, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions.
- The law also provides clear standards for establishing parentage in the family court.
- While Rhode Island case law has supported de facto parentage (parentage where there is no biological connection between parent and child) since 2000 with the decision of Rubano v. Dicenzo, the law officially codifies the legal doctrine of de facto parentage.
The Act was sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, who had this to say about the legislation when it was signed into law by Governor Raimondo:
Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect, and be responsible for their children. These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society. The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born. This bill is specifically about one thing – equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state.
Simply put, and as stated by Governor Raimondo, the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act “enshrines into law . . . belief in the validity of all paths to parenthood.”