July 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Purpose of Uniform Parentage Act is to Establish and Protect Parent-Child Relationship

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Parental Responsibilities of A.R.L., and Concerning Limberis on Thursday, December 5, 2013.

Biological Versus Presumptive Mother in Same-Sex Relationship—Uniform Parentage Act.

Elizabeth Limberis and Sabrina Havens began living together as a couple in 2000. Several years later, Havens unsuccessfully underwent one round of artificial insemination. Her friend, Marc Bolt, then agreed to inseminate her through sexual intercourse. Neither Havens nor Bolt revealed their sexual encounter to Limberis. Havens conceived and gave birth to A.R.L. in 2008. Limberis was present at the birth, and the child was given her last name. The birth certificate identifies Havens as the mother and does not name the father.

In 2011, the couple separated and Limberis filed a petition for parental responsibilities. Havens contested Limberis’s request for allocation of parental responsibilities and joined Bolt as a party. Bolt responded, describing himself as a sperm donor, and later filed a petition to relinquish his parental rights.

Limberis then petitioned for maternity under the Colorado Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), arguing that she was a presumed parent under the UPA. Havens moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. Havens argued that because A.R.L. had a father and a mother, Limberis could not be a second mother and third parent under the UPA. The trial court agreed and dismissed Limberis’s petition. Following a hearing, the court allocated all parental responsibilities to Havens and granted Bolt’s petition to relinquish his parental rights.

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred in denying Limberis’s maternity petition on legal grounds without considering the merits. Limberis alleged facts in her petition that, if true, demonstrated she was an interested party. Therefore, she did not lack capacity under the UPA. The UPA’s purpose is to establish and protect the parent–child relationship. A person may be a presumed parent without being a biological or adoptive parent.

The Court rejected the argument that granting Limberis’s maternity petition would have left A.R.L. with three legal parents. First, Bolt was, at most, an alleged father. Second, no other statutory presumption applied to Bolt. Third, even if Bolt claimed a presumption as the father, that presumption is rebuttable. Fourth, if Bolt had filed a petition for parentage, it would have just been a competing petition, not the possibility of three parents. Finally, Bolt never claimed paternity.

The Court also rejected the argument that there is no authority in Colorado to support substituting a second legal mother for a child’s legal father. At most, the trial court had two competing presumptions to consider.

Finally, the Court addressed the underlying implicit premise of the trial court’s ruling—that a child may not have two legal mothers under the UPA. The Court found nothing in the UPA that would prohibit a child from having two same-sex parents. Accordingly, the order denying Limberis’s maternity petition was reversed. On remand, the trial court must determine whether Limberis is A.R.L.’s presumptive mother under the UPA’s holding out provision.

Summary and full case available here.

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