Elisa B. v. Superior Court

37 Cal. 4th 108, 33 Cal. Rptr. 3d 46, 117 P.3d 660 (2005)



It has been held that a natural parent within the meaning of the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), Cal. Fam. Code § 7600 et seq., can be a person with no biological connection to the child. It has also been held that a woman with no biological connection to a child can be a presumed mother under Cal. Fam. Code § 7611(d). Similarly, it has been held that a woman who was the half-sister of a child could, nevertheless, be the child's natural mother under the UPA. The courts in Curiale v. Reagan, 272 Cal. Rptr. 520 (1990)Nancy S. v. Michele G., 279 Cal. Rptr. 212 (1991), and West v. Superior Court, 69 Cal. Rptr. 2d 160 (1997), did not have the benefit of this authority and did not consider the applicability of Cal. Fam. Code § 7611(d) regarding presumed fathers. Accordingly, these decisions are disapproved to the extent they are inconsistent with this authority.


On June 7, 2001, the District Attorney of El Dorado County, California, filed a complaint in superior court to establish that Elisa was a parent of two-year-old twins and to order her to pay child support. The twins' birth mother, Emily B., who used to have a homosexual relationship with Elisa, had conceived them through artificial insemination. The trial court found that Elisa was obligated to support the children under the doctrine of equitable estoppel because Emily relied on Elisa's promise to raise and support her children. Elisa petitioned for a writ of mandate and the court of appeals directed the superior court to vacate its order and dismiss the action, concluding that Elisa had no obligation to pay child support because she was not a parent of the twins within the meaning of the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA). 


Was Elisa a parent of the twins within the meaning of the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), and thus, obligated to pay child support?




The state supreme court held that a woman who agreed to raise children with her partner, supported her partner's artificial insemination using an anonymous donor, and received the resulting twin children into her home and held them out as her own, was the children's parent under the UPA and had an obligation to support them. Pursuant to Fam. Code, § 7611, subd. (d), Elisa was a presumed mother of the twins. Elisa actively consented to, and participated in, the artificial insemination of Emily with the understanding that the resulting child or children would be raised by the Emily and Elisa as co-parents, and they did act as co-parents for a substantial period of time. Having helped cause the children to be born, and having raised them as her own, Elisa was not permitted to abandon the twins simply because her relationship with Emily dissolved. 

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