As same-sex relationships continue to achieve legal recognition in many states, including Colorado, new family law issues are created as the limits of old definitions and concepts are tested. One of the most important issues facing same-sex parents who split up is child custody. In a recent case, the Colorado Court of Appeals made an important ruling, stating that a parent who loved and cared for her child, but was not a biological parent or legal adoptive parent, could still be considered a legal parent and could seek custody rights.
The woman and her former partner were together for several years. The woman’s partner tried to conceive through artificial insemination, but when that was unsuccessful she had sex with a male friend in order to conceive a child. The man indicated he did not want to be involved with the child, and he and the mother told the mother’s partner the child was conceived through artificial insemination. The mother gave birth to a daughter in 2008. Both women cared for the child until they split in 2011.
The non-biological mother sought custody rights after the break-up, but a lower court ruled she was not legally a parent because she was not a biological parent and did not legally adopt the child. The Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed the lower court’s ruling. The appeals court ruled that under the Uniform Parentage Act, a non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship could have the status of a legal parent.
The ruling means that a partner in a same-sex relationship now can be on equal terms with the biological parent in a custody dispute. The ruling removes a technical defense that resulted in unfairness to non-biological parents, and should allow custody determinations in same-sex relationships to be decided on the basis of the best interests of the child.
Source: Denver Post, “Appeals court decision big step for same-sex parents in custody cases,” Jordan Steffen, Dec. 14, 2013