Court Rules Non-Biological Mother Is Legal Parent In Same-Sex DivorceCarolyn Castiglia
Gay marriage may not be legal in New York State, but one lesbian mom got a great Mother’s Day gift this week when the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that she is the legal parent of her 6-year-old son, “based on a Vermont civil union that she and her former partner entered into prior to his birth.”
You see, Debra H. and Janice R. were just two crazy kids in love back in 2003, and they ran off to Vermont to get hitched. Or civil-unioned, “which at that time was the most legally significant relationship available to same-sex couples under U.S. law,” according to Lambda Legal, a nationwide organization fighting for the rights of GLBT people, and the representatives of the plaintiff. Janice R. got preggers using a sperm donor, and the happy couple met with an adoption lawyer before their son was born to arrange for Debra H. to have full parental rights. Lambda Legal stresses that, “Debra was by Janice’s side throughout labor and delivery and cut their son’s umbilical cord; her last name was included in their son’s name on his birth certificate.” After their son’s birth, Janice R. was all, “We don’t need The Man to sanction your parentage. It’s all good, baby, I love you.” But then Janice R. dumped Debra H. in 2006 and was like, “That’s my kid, bish!” Debra H. was like, “Say what, hooker?!” And then they went to court.
Debra filed for emergency joint custody in May of 2008, and the court allowed her visitation rights. Janice appealed the decision, and Lambda Legal took on Debra’s case. The New York State Court of Appeals determined that “New York will recognize parentage created by a civil union in Vermont,” which is a huge coup for same-sex parents in the Empire State. But the battle isn’t over for poor Debra, who still has to go to family court to seek custody and visitation. (Debra also wishes to provide child support for her son.) I can’t imagine the court denying her after winning such a huge battle, but the outcome remains to be seen. With all the deadbeat Dads out there, it would be a shame for a mother who so clearly cares for her child to be denied those parental rights.
Interestingly, the Court of Appeals decided another case on May 4th “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.” The high court abstained from judgement and is passing the decision off to Family Court.
Photo: University of Denver