Mother’s former paramour, who was not child’s biological father, brought action against mother, asserting de facto parenthood and seeking parental rights and responsibilities. Following hearing, the District Court found de facto parenthood and awarded contact with child. Mother appealed. Held: The determination of the rights and responsibilities of a person petitioning for status as a de facto parent must occur in three stages: first, a party seeking de facto parenthood status must establish his or her standing by making a prima facie showing of the elements of de facto parenthood, i.e., an unequivocal, committed, and responsible parenting role and harm to child if that relationship is terminated; second, if petitioner satisfies that prima facie burden, petitioner must then prove those elements by clear and convincing evidence; if, and only if, petitioner if a de facto parent, the court must establish the extent of petitioner’s rights and responsibilities under statute generally governing parental rights and responsibilities. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
Laura W. Morgan is the owner and operator at Family Law Consulting in Charlottesville, Virginia. Laura is available for consultation, brief writing and research on family law issues throughout the country. She can be reached through her website. www.famlawconsult.com