Assembly Bill 2344 by Tom Ammiano, the Modern Family Act, passed both the Assembly and the Senate by wide margins this summer, and was signed by the Governor and chaptered into law on September 26th. The new law makes several changes to existing law regarding important family law topics such as adoption, paternity, and issues for sperm donors and surrogate mothers.
Defining Parentage for Sperm Donors
Under existing law, a sperm donor is not treated as the child’s natural parent unless both the donor and the woman agree in writing prior to conception that the donor will have parental rights. AB2344 simplifies that law by creating a statutory form the parties can use to clearly state their intentions for the donor to be a parent or not. The bill actually creates 3 different model forms: 1) for married spouses or registered domestic partners using assisted reproduction (sperm or egg donor) to conceive a child; 2) for unmarried, intended parents using the intended parent’s sperm to conceive a child; and 3) for intended parents conceiving a child using eggs from one parent and the other parent will give birth (for female same-sex couples).
While use of the statutory forms are not mandatory, they can serve as a model for anyone making their own forms. Some written agreement is still required for the donor to have parental rights; that aspect of the law has not changed. The forms recognize that parentage laws are complicated, and the forms may not resolve all parentage issues. All the forms boldly indicate that the parties are strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney about their rights.
Stepparent Adoption, Now with Easier Steps
Under current law, before a stepparent adoption may occur (where a spouse or domestic partner adopts the child of the other spouse or partner), an investigation must be conducted either by a probation officer, private adoption agency or county welfare department, and the person wishing to adopt has to bear the costs, up to $700. In addition to a home visit or home study, the person must also appear in court to be examined by a family law judge.
Now, thanks to AB2344, these steps will no longer be required for stepparent adoptions where the spouse or partner gave birth during the marriage or domestic partnership. However, the parties must in writing explain the circumstances of the conception in sufficient detail to identify whether there may be others with a claim to parentage who must be provided notice of the intended adoption or who would have to consent to the adoption before it could take place. The court may decide to hold a hearing on this issue if warranted.
Covering Medical Bills for Surrogate Mothers
Finally, current law requires an assisted reproduction agreement for gestational carriers (surrogate mothers) to include certain provisions, such as the date the agreement was executed; the name of the person from whom the gametes originated (unless they were donated anonymously); and the identity of the intended parent or parents. Under the new law, the assisted reproduction agreement must also disclose the manner in which the intended parent or parents will cover the medical expenses of the surrogate and the newborn. For instance, if health care coverage is being used to cover the medical expenses, the agreement must include a review of the insurance policy provisions related to coverage for surrogate pregnancy, including any possible liability of the surrogate, third-party liability liens or other insurance coverage, and any notice requirements that could affect the coverage or liability of the surrogate.