As same-sex marriage rights become increasingly common throughout the nation, a growing number of family law problems are emerging with regard to child custody. Same-sex couples enjoy different rights in different states. As a result, dealing with the legal implications of a break-up that involves kids has become extraordinarily complex. In some of Minnesota’s fellow Midwestern states, seminal court cases are determining whether existing child custody rights extend to guardians who are not traditionally known as “parents.”
In one such case, a female pair chose to have a child through artificial insemination. One of the women gave birth to the little boy, now 5 years old, and he identifies them both as his mothers. The partner who did not give birth to the boy never went through the formal adoption process, so her parental rights are now in question in a landmark case. The couple initially split up when the boy was 2 years old.
An appeals court has ruled that the woman is not permitted to seek joint custody because she never took the steps necessary to formally adopt the child. She can, however, seek visitation. This can be granted if judges in the case decide that the child’s best interests would be served by interacting with both moms. Even that decision is a departure from the Midwestern state’s traditional ethos, which requires that visitation only be granted to stepparents, parents or grandparents. Now, members of same-sex couples are permitted to seek visitation as well.
Social changes throughout our nation require concomitant legal modifications to clarify parental rights among same-sex couples. Despite feelings related to gay marriage, lawmakers must work to create custody legislation that will protect children and their parents from unfair rulings. Children who are born to unwed same-sex couples deserve the same consideration as those who are born to heterosexual pairs.
www.southbendtribune.com, “Indiana court asks legislature to tackle same-sex custody” Madeline Buckley, Nov. 11, 2013