Same-sex couple separates, disputes parental rights

What a parent is has come into question in a Kentucky case that involves an estranged same-sex couple disputing over the adoption of a 9-year-old girl. However, couples in Texas may not realize that these types of cases are popping up all over the country.

In the Kentucky case, court records indicate that one of the women in the same-sex relationship became pregnant with a sperm donor in 2006, making her the biological mother of the girl. The non-biological mother lived with the girl until she was 4, provided health insurance for her and was listed as a parent on school and child care documents. The women split in 2011. The biological mother stopped all contact and married a man who wants to adopt the girl. The ex-partner is seeking to stop the adoption.

A county family court ruled in favor of the ex-partner, but an appellate court overturned the ruling, and the case is before the state's highest court. Attorneys for the biological mother have argued in court filings that the statutes must be applied as they are currently written, not as they may be altered in the future to accommodate conceived, born and raised children during same-sex relationships. Conversely, the ex-partner says that she and the biological mother had a shared parenting agreement.

Part of the problem is that although the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in June 2015, the decision did not settle the range of family legal issues that may arise from such relationships. Additionally, the meaning of "parent" is different from state to state. These issues leave non-biological, same-sex parents vulnerable to being stripped of their parental rights.

The legal process can be very complex for same-sex partners because it was generally based around heterosexual relationships. As a result, same-sex partners who split and find themselves in legal disputes over child custody and visitation or parental rights may want to have the assistance of their respective family law attorneys.

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