How Do You Get Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

If you give birth, or you are married to someone who gives birth, you become the presumed parent of the child, and you automatically get parental rights and responsibilities. Keep in mind, however, that this presumption was designed for heterosexual couples, and LGBTQ couples may need to take additional steps to assert their parental rights and responsibilities.

Establishing Parentage (Paternity)

Unmarried couples will also need to establish parentage (paternity) after the mother gives birth.

To establish paternity, you and your partner can sign a voluntary declaration of parentage or paternity. If there is any disagreement on who a child’s parents are, you may have to establish parentage in court.


Not every parent gives birth or is married to someone who gives birth. Some couples (for example, gay men) use surrogate mothers to have their children. When this is the case, the intended parents and the surrogate mother (gestational parent) sign a surrogacy agreement that establishes parentage. Sometimes, one member of the LGBTQ couple is biologically related to their surrogate child, but other times the surrogate child is conceived with both donor egg and donor sperm, so the legal surrogacy agreement is of the utmost importance.

Often, California courts use DNA testing to establish parentage, but this is not always an option in surrogacy – or adoption.


In most adoptions, neither adoptive parent is biologically related to the child. The birth parents must terminate their parental rights and responsibilities, and the adoptive parents must establish theirs in court.

Stepparent Adoption

Sometimes, stepparents adopt their stepchildren, which does not require both birth parents to terminate their parental rights. Nevertheless, the parent who is not married to the stepparent must terminate their parental rights to make way for a stepparent adoption.

Often, an ex-spouse is not involved in their child’s life but is unwilling to terminate their parental rights. In some cases, the court will terminate a parent’s parental rights upon the other parent’s request – as long as the action is in the best interest of the child.

The Importance of Legal Parentage

When it comes to matters like child custody and child support, legal parentage matters much more than biological parentage. Even if someone is biologically related to their child, they may lose parental rights and responsibilities if they do not establish them soon enough.

If someone is raising a child they are not biologically related to, and they have not established legal parentage, they could lose their right to see their child in a dispute with the birth parent.

At TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP, we see this all too often when unmarried couples separate or LGBTQ couples divorce.

That’s why we encourage untraditional families to establish legal parentage as soon as they welcome a new child into their lives.

If you are expecting, adopting, or awaiting a surrogate child, we can help you get started on the paperwork today. With more than 100 years of collective experience, we can also help you navigate any disputes that arise.

Our Board Certified Family Law Specialists always put clients like you first, and we can help you work toward peace of mind as soon as you call us at (310) 455-8364 or contact us online.

Related Posts
  • What is the Hague Convention? Read More
  • What Are the Different Parenting Styles? Read More
  • Who Pays for College When Parents Are Divorced? Read More