Ways to Become a Parent

The Maine Parentage Act (“MPA”), enacted by the Legislature, became effective July 1, 2016. The MPA gives legal recognition to many types of families.

The MPA does not change the rights and responsibilities of parents, or the rights of children. Rather, the law clearly defines the ways in which a person may become a parent with all associated rights and responsibilities.
 
Depending upon the facts of a case, the court may determine that a child has more than two legal parents.

The text of the full MPA can be found in Title 19-A of the Maine Revised Statutes.

Establishing Parentage

You may be, or determined to be, a legal parent as a result of:

  • Giving birth to a child, unless you are a “gestational carrier” as explained below;
  • Adopting a child through a court process;
  • Signing an “acknowledgement of paternity;”
  • Being a “presumed parent;”
  • Being an “adjudicated parent” by way of a court order; or
  • Being an “intended parent” in an assisted reproduction or gestational carrier agreement.

Find more information on these terms below:

1. Birth

If you are a woman who gives birth to your genetic or biological child, you are a parent with rights to and responsibilities for the child.

2. Adoption

Adoption is a court process through which a person becomes a legal parent of a child. For more information please see Adoption, Guardianship, & Name Change of a Minor.

3. Acknowledgment of Paternity

A man who claims to be the genetic father of a child may voluntarily sign an “acknowledgment of paternity” if he wants to establish his status as a parent.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has an Acknowledgement of Paternity form that the father may complete, sign, and submit to the Office of Vital Statistics. The instructions included with this form have more information on using an acknowledgement of paternity.

4. Presumed Parent

There are several ways you may be a “presumed parent” under the MPA, including:

  • You gave birth to the child (except if you were a gestational carrier as defined below);
  • You were married to the other parent when the child was conceived or born, even if the marriage is, or could be found to be invalid; or
  • You lived in the same household with the child, openly held out the child as your own from the time the child was born or adopted and for at least two (2) years afterwards, and assumed personal, financial, or custodial responsibilities for the child.

5. De facto parent

A “de facto” parent is a person recognized by a court or “adjudicated” as a parent because of a permanent, committed relationship with the child. This designation does not take away rights and responsibilities from a child’s other legal parent(s). Instead, the designation grants the de facto parent rights to, and responsibilities for, that child, including financial obligations.

The person seeking to have a court order that the person is a de facto parent must complete an affidavit (a statement under oath) detailing specific facts to support the finding.

Examples of what you must show to be a de facto parent:

You have:

  • Lived with the child for a significant amount of time;
  • Regularly taken care of the child;
  • Developed a close and parent-like relationship with the child, and the relationship was fostered or supported by another parent who behaved as though you are the parent of the child; and
  • Taken on complete and permanent responsibility for the child, without expectation of financial compensation.

You must also show that continuing the relationship between you and the child is in the child’s best interest.

If the court determines that a person is a “de facto” parent, the child may have more than two legal parents.

6. Genetic parent

The court may order genetic testing to assist in making its determination of parentage. Parties may be unsure of who the father of a child is, or a putative (assumed) father disputes that he is the father.  

If, after genetic testing, a person cannot be excluded as the father of a child, the court can “adjudicate” (make a determination) that he is the father of a child, subject to all the rights and responsibilities of a parent.

7. Intended parent

An intended parent is a person who has shown his or her intention to be a parent of a child born through assisted reproduction, generally through a signed agreement.

Assisted reproduction

A person may use a method other than sexual intercourse to become pregnant. Methods of “assisted reproduction” include insemination and donation of gametes, embryos, or sperm.

In determining who is a parent, the MPA provides that generally, a sperm donor is not a parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction. The intended parents of the child may petition the court to obtain a pre-birth determination that they are the child’s parents at the time of birth.  

Gestational carrier

A woman may act as a gestational carrier to deliver a child without the intent of becoming that child’s legal parent.

There are many requirements for a gestational carrier agreement, including that the woman carrying the baby must be at least 21-years-old, and must have previously given birth to at least one child.

Parents who wish to use a gestational carrier must consult a lawyer. See Get Legal Help.

How do I start a parentage case?

See Court Process in Family Matters Cases for information on the general court procedure in family matters cases. You will be filing a complaint for Determination of Parentage, Parental Rights & Responsibilities, and Child Support (FM-006).

Additional Information

Pine Tree Legal Assistance, “Maine Parentage Act: Who can be a parent?"

GLAD Legal Advocates & Defenders, “Expanding Protections for Families: Maine Adopts a State-of-the-Art Law.”