Law School Case Brief
Charisma R. v. Kristina S. - 140 Cal. App. 4th 301, 44 Cal. Rptr. 3d 332 (2006)
It is the province of a trial court to decide questions of fact and the province of an appellate court to decide questions of law. Although appellate courts are authorized to make findings of fact on appeal by Code Civ. Proc., § 909, and Cal. Rules of Court, rule 23, the authority should be exercised sparingly. Absent exceptional circumstances, no such findings should be made. This is particularly true where an intervening supreme court decision has provided new guidance regarding the relevant factual findings.
Charisma R. and Kristina S. were a same sex couple who began dating in July 1997. They moved in together in August 1998 and registered as domestic partners with the State of California in January 2002. In 2002, Kristina became pregnant by artificial insemination from an anonymous donor, and Amalia was born in April 2003. Amalia was given a hyphenated last name, which was a combination of Charisma and Kristina's last names. In July 2003, Kristina moved out of the home she shared with Charisma, taking Amalia with her. Since then, Kristina has allowed Charisma to see Amalia on only two occasions. In May 2004, Charisma filed a petition seeking to establish a parental relationship with Amalia. In an accompanying declaration, Charisma averred that she and Kristina decided to have a child together with the intention that they would both be the child's parents. The trial court denied the petition, holding that Charisma lacked standing to bring the action under the Uniform Parentage Act (Act).
Did the trial court err in denying Charisma’s petition due to lack of standing?
Under Fam. Code, § 7650, of the Act, an "interested person" could bring an action to determine the existence or nonexistence of a mother and child relationship. The Court noted that, in concluding that Charisma lacked standing, the trial court followed three prior court of appeal decisions, each holding that a former lesbian partner lacking a biological tie to a child could not establish a parent-child relationship under the Act. Subsequently, the California Supreme Court overruled those three decisions, holding that a former lesbian partner might be able to establish parentage under the Act as a presumed parent under a gender-neutral application of Fam. Code, § 7611, subd. (d). Following the Supreme Court's holding, the Court found that remand was required for the trial court to determine whether Charisma was a presumed parent under § 7611, subd. (d), and whether the action was an appropriate one in which to rebut the presumption that Charisma was the child's parent.
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