Custody case addresses number of legal mothers a child can have

Scientific advances as well as more progressive attitudes and laws regarding same-sex relationships in the U.S. are creating the need for legal clarifications within the realm of family law. An out-of-state child custody case involving two women is an example of how the laws must catch up with changing family trends.

The two women behind what’s become a nationally-watched family law dispute used to be a couple. When they were together, they mutually decided to start a family together. One of the women used an anonymous sperm donation to fertilize an egg, while the other woman carried the fetus to term and gave birth to a baby.

Now that the women are no longer together, courts have been challenged to answer, “How should parental rights be assigned?”

Is a woman a mother because she gave birth to a child? Is a woman a mother because the child is of her egg? As you can see, science has made these questions important for the courts to answer. Not only do the parents involved in these kinds of family matters want to have answers, but the children at the center of such child custody disputes deserve some clarification and stability.

The specific case of the two women who had a child together and then split is getting its share of attention in the court system. It’s gone through trial court and then to its state’s supreme court, which recently ruled that both women should have a shot at gaining parental rights. Supporting that ruling is the point that the women created a parenting agreement before the birth of the child. Therefore, a trial court must hear the case again and not dismiss one woman as a mere surrogate.

This child custody case is an example of how science is changing the way in which families are formed, as well as how the make-up of a family is changing overall. A more clear and legal point that this story addresses, however, is how contracts can help resolve potential disputes in the future. Maybe the women in this case never thought that they would break up. But they did, and now the joint-parenting contract that they reportedly created could be the determining factor in how custody of the child is assigned.

Source: CBS Las Vegas, “Court: Surrogate Mom Can Seek Child Custody,” Oct. 3, 2013


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