While our current society has created families of widely diverse compositions, child custody laws can still offer help in many situations.
A child custody dispute between two lesbians recently went to the Florida Supreme Court. The justices indicated that the child custody dispute is likely to return to the lower court. Before the parties’ relationship ended, the one of them donated her egg, which was fertilized and implanted in the other woman. When the couple separated two years later, the court awarded sole custody of the child to the birth mother. On appeal, the court said that the two mothers should share custody. Following the decision, the birth mother took the child to Australia, and the egg donor has not seen the child in 5 years.
Generally, child custody issues are determined according to the best interests of the child. In non-divorce cases, statutes in most states provide that sole custody is awarded to the mother unless the father takes action for custody. Fathers in these situations can still pursue visitation. The custody arrangement will either be agreed upon by the non-married parents of determined by the court. Non-parent, third party custody or guardianship can also be sought under certain circumstances.
However, with respect to this case, genetic donors do not enjoy legal rights to custody under Florida law. With respect to homosexual parents in general, how they are treated varies by state. Some courts in some states may conclude that being the child of homosexual partners impacts the child negatively. In other states, homosexual relationships are treated the same as heterosexual relationships and the court will not give the nature of the relationship much consideration unless specific harm to the child is shown.
While the law is still being determined as to new types of family arrangements, it can still offer help in complex family situations.
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Source: The Republic, “Florida Supreme Court hears lesbian custody dispute; lawyers doubt case’s broader implications,” Bill Kaczor, Oct. 2, 2012.