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U.K. Court: Lesbian Mom Barred From Paying Child Support

A High Court judge in the U.K. ruled on Friday that the non-biological lesbian mother of a 10-year-old boy is not required to pay child maintenance to her former girlfriend.  The couple had not entered into a civil union and therefore Justice Moylan said the non-biological mother could not be deemed a legal parent, despite being a “social and psychological” one.

Moylan said, “I have come to the clear conclusion that those against whom orders can be made… are confined to those who are a parent in the legal meaning of the word,” Lemondrop U.K. reports.  The judge does not consider the non-biological mother a legal parent despite the fact that she won a court order for shared residence with her son.  Moylan said the shared custody might appear “persuasive” in the argument for her to be defined as a legal parent, but “the mere obtaining of parental responsibility is clearly not intended to make someone a legal parent when they would not otherwise be such.”  Meaning, for example, that a grandmother who is granted the temporary custody of her grandchild does not suddenly become the child’s legal parent.

So the non-biological mother in this case, known only as B, has a right to see her son, but not a responsibility to pay child support.  Hmm… that’s sticky.  How can we normalize same-sex parenting if we don’t hold gay parents to the same legal standards as hetero parents?  An unwed biological parent of either sex in a straight couple would be deemed financially responsible for his/her child, so why not give a gay parent the same charge?  The couple in question was together from 1994-2007; clearly they intended to be and were a family unit.  B obviously wants to be in her son’s life or she wouldn’t have fought for her right to shared custody.  I know I would be livid if my ex received shared custody but was exempt from paying child support.

In a case I told you about in early May, a New York State mother was granted legal parental status over her non-biological son, but she and her former partner had entered into a civil union in Vermont.   In the case, Debra H. vs. Janice R., The New York State Court of Appeals determined that “New York will recognize parentage created by a civil union in Vermont,” but despite her win, Debra was told to file another petition with the family court to seek custody and visitation.  Debra wants to provide child support for her son, but after this case in the U.K., who knows how the court will rule. 

A similar case “involving a same-sex couple who conceived a child with an anonymous donor, but in which the non-biologically related partner now argues that she is not the child’s parent and should not be required to provide child support,” was dismissed by the NYS Court of Appeals and turned over to the family court.

Justice Moylan feels it’s not the court’s place to legally redefine who is classified as a parent, according to Pink News.  In his closing arguments, Moylan stated, “In some respects the outcome in this case may seem objectively surprising.  However, in my view it is for the legislature to determine who should be financially responsible for children if it is to extend beyond those who are legal parents.  If I were to extend the definition to include anyone who has acted as a parent, I do not see how I could properly define the limits of such an extended definition in a way which would provide sufficient legal certainty.”

That makes sense, and using that logic, Debra H. should be allowed to pay child support for her son, since she was defined by the court as a legal parent based on her civil union.  (Too bad her case can’t be heard in the U.K.)  I wonder if B would have been made to pay child support if she and her partner had entered a civil partnership?  It seems as though she would have, which is really interesting to me.  Marriage rates are at an all-time low in the U.K., but gay couples have to enter into a civil union in order to have the same rights their unwed hetero counterparts do?  It’s kind of funny that only 40 years ago, homosexuality was hardly accepted as normal, and now the gay community is being herded into a heteronormative lifestyle that straight people themselves are abandoning in record numbers.

Lawyers.com says, “Although there’s no consistent law for unmarried same-sex parents, California requires child support after same-sex parents’ separate.”  It also suggests that a stepparent who develops an in loco parentis relationship with their stepchild, “intending to treat the stepchild as their natural child,” can agree to support a stepchild after divorce.  In that case, I can’t imagine why a gay parent wouldn’t be allowed the same right and responsibility.

Photo: Change.org

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