On Tuesday, Nov. 13, California’s Third District Court of Appeal found in favor of a biological father (known as C.A.) who now shares parenting rights with a married woman and her husband.
While California Family Code §7540 calls for the presumption of paternity when a woman is married at the time of conception, Family Code §7611(d) recognizes any natural parent who publicly acknowledges and cares for the child as their own. Finally, Family Code §7612(c) states a child can have more than two legal parents if deciding otherwise would be harmful. All three factor into the unique case.
According to court documents, the little girl was born in July 2012 to a married woman, known as C.P., who misled C.A. into believing she was separated from her husband. She informed C.A. of her pregnancy and his role as the father. Her husband found out soon after and decided to stay with his wife while allowing the biological father to be involved.
After the birth of the baby, C.A. provided child support and physical care to the baby, who spent time in his home and with his family. He participated in doctor’s visits, had overnight parenting time, and was involved in educational services for the girl.
That changed in 2015 when C.A. filed for paternity rights. At that point, the mother refused further visitation and lied to the court regarding C.A.’s motivation. As a result, he and his daughter were separated for nearly three years.
The married couple tried to use this break in parenting time to prove C.A. wasn’t involved in his daughter’s life. Thankfully, the court wasn’t buying it.
In part, the decision reads:
“Defendants paint plaintiff as a would-be homewrecker, and point out that they have other children together who could be impacted by a divorce. But the trial court found wife misled plaintiff, causing him to believe she and husband were separated…
Fourth, the trial court found plaintiff ‘articulated his goal to respectfully co-exist with’ husband,’ to whom he had apologized for the situation he had unwittingly caused and had not been aware of husband’s role in the child’s life (due to concealment of facts by wife.) Further, the court found plaintiff had no desire to supplant husband, but instead wanted ‘a plan that would allow [the child] to have a relationship with all parents,’ and husband acknowledged that if the men’s positions were reversed, he, too, would want paternal recognition.”
The Established Father-Daughter Relationship Made All the Difference
Other cases have attempted to establish triple parentage, but have been denied for a number of reasons. Most notably, biological fathers sometimes don’t do enough to be involved in their children’s lives. It is essential for fathers to:
- Pay child support
- Request parenting time
- Provide gifts and letters
- Make other attempts at creating a relationship with their children
C.A. had a long history of involvement with his daughter at the time he applied for parenting rights. The courts found their time apart hadn’t erased that.
The decision represents the lengths California courts are willing to go to in order to do what’s best for a child. It also represents a break from the previously held bias toward preserving marriages above all else. Though the husband in the case made it clear he planned to stay committed to his wife despite her affair, the health of their marriage was downplayed in favor of the child’s right to be with her dad. As the court said:
“For defendants to allow plaintiff to bond with the child and then cut him off when he tried to formalize the arrangement threatened to detriment the child.”