Vermont's New Parentage Law H.562
Posted on Dec 06, 2018
With significant advances in reproductive technology and our society’s increasing recognition of all types of families, the question “who is this child’s parent?” is not as simple to answer as it once was. The Vermont Supreme Court had long criticized the Vermont Legislature for failing to provide guidance on how to determine parentage of children from all types of families. The legislature finally responded with the passage of H.562, which was enacted on July 1, 2018.
This article focuses on one aspect of the new law: parentage of children born via assisted reproduction. There are many ways a person or couple can receive assistance in order to have a child. Examples include using a donated gamete (egg or sperm), embryo, or a surrogate or gestational carrier.
Regardless of the means of assistance, a person who consents to his or her partner’s effort to reproduce using assistance with the intent to become the parent of a resulting child is now considered a parent in Vermont. To make it official, Vermont probate courts are empowered to issue a “birth order” vesting parental rights and responsibilities with the parent or parents who sought reproductive assistance.
Obtaining an order from a court as to who has parental rights and responsibilities for a particular child supports the stability and safety of that child. Before this law was enacted, the parent consenting to assisted reproduction for the spouse or partner who would be the biological parent had to adopt their own child through a “step-parent adoption” to obtain a court order that the child was theirs. This was especially critical for same-sex couples whose status as parents would otherwise be based solely on being in a civil union or married to the biological parent at the time of the child’s birth—with no guarantees as to whether their civil union or marriage would be respected in every state.
Vermont birth orders can be issued before or after the birth of a child resulting from assisted reproduction, and parents can ask the court to seal the record to protect their and their child’s privacy. The modernization of our assisted reproduction law will bring peace of mind to families who need assistance having children so that they can focus on raising them.
M. Kate Thomas, Esq. is an associate attorney at Facey Goss & McPhee, P.C., who can assist families through the birth order process and other family law matters.