Child custody decisions can be emotional and seem unpredictable but by understanding what the court looks at, they do not necessarily always have to be that way.
The Florida Supreme Court recently made an important ruling that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner has parental rights to the child. As a result, the lower court was instructed to help determine child support, child custody and visitation rights’ issues. One of the women, who identifies herself as the biological mother, donated the egg which was fertilized and implanted in the other woman.
Two years later, the couple ended their relationship and the birth mother left the country with the child. The biological mother then located her former partner and the child in Australia with the help of an investigator. The custody dispute then followed. The birth mother argued that a Florida law preventing sperm and egg donors from claiming parental rights to children born to another couple should apply in this case. The attorney for the birth mother also cited the practice of egg donors signing documents to relinquish parental rights.
The court rejected these two arguments in making its ruling, noting that the women intended to parent the child together. The Florida law that the birth mother cited can still apply in cases of anonymous donors. One expert noted that the law was “thoughtfully applied” in this case and the case has been championed as an affirmation of the right a parent has to care for a child regardless of how the child was conceived or the sexual orientation of the parents. Some hope that the case may open the path for a broadening of the definition of parent and co-parenting that is not based on a biological or gestational relationship.
Child custody decisions focus on the best interests of the child. There are many factors that a court may look to when determining the best interests of the child in a particular circumstance. A family law attorney can help a parent better understand what those factors are and help guide the parent through the child custody process.
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, “Fla. Supreme Court settles lesbian custody battle,” Brendan Farrington, Nov. 7, 2013