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Same-sex divorce parental rights case could affect donors' rights

Parents in Texas who are in same-sex relationships may want to make sure they have legal documentation that states they are both the parents of their children. On Nov. 29 in Mississippi, the state Supreme Court heard arguments from a woman who hopes to get parental rights to the child her ex-spouse gave birth to. The child is now six. His biological mother said the woman had the opportunity to get parental rights during the divorce.

The woman does have visitation rights and pays child support. However, a judge gave sole custody to the woman who gave birth to him. If the biological mother dies, the child could be adopted by another couple without input from the other woman. The judge also said the sperm donor has parental rights. The woman's attorney argued that the child should have a legal relationship with both women and not the sperm donor. When the child was born, the woman was not permitted to add her name to the birth certificate. The woman's attorney argued that the state law that prevented it was unconstitutional.

However, the other woman's attorney argued that egg and sperm donors have legal rights to a child conceived from their donation. The decision may affect parents of either sex because it might require them to terminate parental rights of donors.

Parents in same-sex relationships who are getting a divorce might face the same obstacles because of similar issues and timing regarding when their children were born. In situations involving child custody, judges are supposed to use the standard of the child's best interests, and parents should also keep this in mind. Courts usually take the position that contact with both parents is better for the child. Parents may want to talk to an attorney if there are issues, such as substance abuse, that affect the child's safety.

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