Unwed Biological Father's Rights Case Law

In In re Lisa R. (1975) a man lived with the natural mother both before the child's birth and afterwards for a period of four or five months and only lost contact when the natural mother returned to her husband. (See 13 Cal. 3d at p. 649.) Taking a cue from Stanley v. Illinois (1972) the court stated that due process could protect the interest of an unwed natural father against the operation of state statutes. (See id. at p. 648 ["In broad terms, Stanley v. Illinois states that the interest of an unwed father in his children is not only cognizable but also of sufficient substance to warrant deference except when the deprivation comports with equal protection and due process requirements"].) In Lisa R., the question was whether the man who claimed to be the natural father might have standing to establish paternity in a juvenile dependency proceeding. Lisa R. presented a variation on the weighing of the interests, in that case whether the "competing private and state interests" would justify an absolute rule against the claimant being able to "submit evidence tending to establish parentage." (Lisa R., supra, 13 Cal. 3d at p. 648 & fn. 14.) While the state's interest in the child's welfare was characterized by our high court as "not insignificant," it was still outweighed by the claimant's "private interest" which was based on "more than the mere biological fact that he is Lisa's natural father." ( Id. at p. 649.) Rather, that private interest was rooted in the fact he had "resided with Lisa's mother both before and after Lisa's birth and contributed to her support." (Ibid.) Indeed, he had lived with the mother and the child "as a family for four or five months and was deprived of her custody only because Lisa's mother, over his wishes, elected to take Lisa with her when she returned to her husband." (Ibid). And as to the matter of the mother's husband, the court noted that the state's interest in "promoting marriage, and in furtherance of that policy of not impugning a family unit" could not be served. (Lisa R., supra, 13 Cal. 3d at p. 650.) It turned out that while the case was in the dependency system both the mother and her husband had died. (Id. at pp. 641-642.)