What is Maine's Parentage Act
The Maine Parentage Act is codified as 19-A MRS, c. 61 (§§1831-1939). It “offers an updated, comprehensive statutory framework for determining a child’s legal parentage” (see summary of LD 1017 (127th Legis. 2015)). It consists primarily of the Maine Parentage Act, but also entails a series of amendments to existing statutes, including the repeal of various provisions.
The law establishes eight main mechanisms for establishing parentage – birth, adoption, acknowledgement, presumption, de facto parentage, genetic parentage, assisted reproduction, and gestational-carrier agreements. In addition to these eight main mechanisms, parentage may be established by admission or default: The Court may accept an admission of parentage that is made under penalty of perjury, or the Court may assign parentage to a party in default as long as the party was properly served notice of the proceeding (see 19-A MRS §1841 and §1842).
The Maine Parentage Act made several significant changes to the law, including:
- Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Filing a valid acknowledgment with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics establishes paternity. A signatory to an acknowledgment may rescind it within 60 days of its effective date. An acknowledgment’s validity may be challenged within two years of its effective date. In the event of “material misrepresentation or concealment,” a non-signatory may challenge an acknowledgment within two years of discovering her or his potential genetic parentage (see 19-A MRS §§1861-1873). The language in these statutes replaces 19-A MRS §1616.
- Presumed parentage. A presumption of parentage applies to any person who, within 300 days prior to the date of the child’s birth, is or was married to the woman who gave birth. The presumption will also apply to any person who, for at least two years after the child’s birth or adoption, “resided in the same household with the child and openly held out the child as that person’s own…and assumed personal, financial or custodial responsibilities for the child (see 19-A MRS §1881).” According to 19-A MRS §1882, “Except as provided in subsection 2, a proceeding to challenge the parentage of an individual whose parentage is presumed under section 1881 must be commenced not later than 2 years after the birth of the child; otherwise the presumption cannot be rebutted.” Some exceptions apply to the two-year limitation on challenges to presumed parentage. See 19-A MRS §§1881-1883.
- De facto parentage.The Maine Parentage Act codifies the de facto parent doctrine. Proving by clear and convincing evidence that one “has fully and completely undertaken a permanent, unequivocal, committed and responsible parental role in the child’s life” establishes de facto parentage. See 19-A MRS §1891.
- An adjudication confirming that a parent has been identified through genetic testing establishes parentage. According to 19-A MRS §1911, “The department may seek an order for genetic testing only if there is no presumed parent, acknowledged father, adjudicated parent or intended parent who consented to assisted reproduction...” The Court may disregard genetic test results when doing so is consistent with the principles of estoppel or the best interests of the child. See 19-A MRS §§1901-1915. The language in these statutes replaces several statutes related to genetic parentage: 19-A MRS §§1558, 1560, 1562, 1563(2), and 1564.
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