Same-sex couples are now able to marry and adopt children in a variety of states. As the rights afforded to these couples expand, courts in Minnesota and other states are struggling to keep pace with family law provisions that were intended for heterosexual pairs. In neighboring Wisconsin, one same-sex partner has been ordered to return every dime of the child support that had been paid to her by her ex. That ex will still have visitation rights with the child, however.
Even though the women were not married, they were in a committed relationship for several years when their daughter was born. The couple split in 2006, but they raised the daughter together from her birth in 1998. After their breakup, the couple initially agreed to share custody and expenses 50/50. In 2008, though, the girl’s biological mother decided that she wanted to restrict the other woman’s access to the child, so she sought help from the court. Neither woman was happy with the outcome of that decision, as the biological mother thought she had to surrender too many days, and the other woman considered the child support payments too high. Both of the women decided to appeal.
The ruling after the appeal states that visitation can be included in a separation agreement if it ultimately serves the benefit of the child. As a result, the girl’s non-biological mother has a right to see her daughter. The fact that the biological mother was seeking to eliminate the other woman from the child’s life warranted some legal intervention on the part of the courts. In addition, the non-biological parent was incorrectly required to pay child support, according to the appeals decision. The biological mother must thus return all of the funds, while the child is permitted to spend extra time with the other woman.
Same-sex divorce and custody cases are notoriously tricky, but cases such as this help set precedents and protect the rights of non-biological parents. Hopefully, the law will be quick to catch up to the changing societal norms relating to same-sex couples.
www.jsonline.com, “Court says no child support due in split of same-sex couple” Bruce Vielmetti, Sep. 06, 2013