In California, the definition of the modern family is constantly evolving. With blended families and same-sex parents being included in the make-up of many families, child custody cases are becoming increasingly more complex.
However, custody is not guaranteed for non-biological parents, as one woman in Ohio found out recently. Because gay marriage is not recognized in Ohio, the state supreme court has decided to not grant custody to the non-biological parent of a young girl. The Ohio woman has been involved in a bitter custody dispute over the girl for almost three years with her former partner.
Documents suggest that the woman and the biological mother of the child made the decision to become parents and drafted “co-parenting” documents to memorialize their decision. When the women decided they wanted to add a child to their family, it was decided that the younger of the two would give birth. The couple even took on a second mortgage to cover the cost of fertility treatments.
The woman signed numerous documents that granted full ‘paternal rights’ for herself as the non-biological parent. However, the biological mother allegedly refused to sign a legally binding contract, and even revoked the original agreements that existed between them when the relationship ended.
The case was brought before the Ohio Supreme Court, where sadly, the majority voted in favor of the biological parent. The dissenting court justice stated that the issue on trial was whether the women had agreed to be co-parents, not whether the biological mother had changed her mind. He also stated that it was his opinion the law needs to ‘catch-up’ with the today’s culture.
Gay and lesbian couples are often concerned that their “non-traditional family” will be at a disadvantage in custody decisions. The case has attracted attention from numerous gay-rights groups, concerned that gay or non-biological parents can lose their access to a child because many states prevent gay and lesbian couples from getting married or aren’t included in the current child custody laws.
Ultimately, it is the child that suffers most in situations like this. In this case, the child referred to both women as “mom” and will now lose access to their non-biological mother.
Disrupting the care and established relationships of a child can be damaging and unsettling. In situations where two parents cannot agree on custody or visitation of a child, it is important to consult an attorney experienced in child custody.
Source: The New American, “Lesbian Loses Court Battle in Child Custody Case With Former Partner,” Dave Bohon, July 18, 2011