SAN JOAQUIN FAMILY LAW HELPS CHANGE PARENTAL RIGHTS LAWS
In 2009, Attorney Jacob Benguerel accepted a custody case wherein his same-sex client was being denied visitation and custody rights. Although she was not the biological mother, he argued that she was a presumed parent under the law due to the fact that she accepted the child into her home and held her out as her own child. The then existing case law regarding same-sex couples and presumed parents only discussed couples that planned to have a child together. In this case, the client met the biological mother while she was pregnant and later developed a long term, live-in relationship. During the relationship the client held the child out to her family, friends, and the community as her own child. When the parties separated, the client was denied visitation. After a hearing on the motion for custody and visitation and a subsequent trial the client was awarded visitation rights but the motion to establish paternity was denied. The client then contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights who put her in touch with a firm that was willing to handle the appeal pro-bono (Chapmin, Popik, and White). On appeal, the court held that the failure of the parties to plan the pregnancy was irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the client was a presumed parent under the law. This holding along with the in-depth discussion of the controlling law clarified the state of the law and gave parental rights to parties that previously had not enjoyed protection under the law.