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Nevada expands parentage rights

Recognizing the changing nature of families, Nevada amended its family law relating to parental rights to make it gender neutral. Beginning July 1, the law will no longer utilize the term acknowledgment of paternity and instead refer to acknowledgment of parentage, thereby granting equal rights to married couples of children conceived during marriage from donor sperm or artificial insemination.

Words such as paternity, husband, and father refer to males. Nevada's amended law now covers family structures that do not fall within a male-female relationship, such as same sex couples. For example, the state may recognize the non-biological mother in a female-female couple as a parent similar to a male spouse in what many consider a "traditional" marriage.

The amended law also expands opportunities to receive a parentage order. Pre-or post-parentage orders, depending on the circumstances, may be issued if a child was anticipated to be born in the state, the child was born in the state, or the intended parents live in Nevada. Other grounds for one of these orders include that the intended parents resided in Nevada when the surrogacy contract was executed, the gestational carrier lives in the state, or the gestational contract was executed in the state. Finally, an order may be issued if the medical procedures took place in Nevada.

As in the days of the Reno divorce, it may be possible for couples to obtain these orders by traveling to Nevada to execute the surrogacy contract. They can then return to a state that is less hospitable to surrogacy.

For example, Tennessee enacted a restrictive law mandating that all words in their state laws must be defined according to their plain meaning. Words such as husband, father, and paternity would refer only to men and would not apply to same-sex spouses, domestic couples, or other couples. Under this interpretation of the law, female same-sex couples would not have the same rights to parentage of children conceived through surrogacy

A lawsuit that argues that the Tennessee law violates the U.S. Constitution is pending. However, same-sex couples from states like Tennessee may be able to move to Nevada or give birth in the state and thereby have the non-biological mother acknowledged as a parent.

These family legal issues are evolving, oftentimes making the matters complicated. Couples should therefore seek legal advice before seeking parentage or executing a surrogacy contract to assure that they can properly assert their legal rights.

Source: Above the Law, "Nevada: Go for the gambling, stay for the surrogacy parental rights," By Ellen Trachman, May 31, 2017

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