Ohio Supreme Court: Lesbian mother has no legal rights to her non-biological child despite legal agreement

July 15, 2011
by Josh Langdon, e-mail josh@GLUEamerica.org

The Supreme Court of Ohio recently released a cringe-worthy decision for In re Mullen - a custody battle case involving a same-sex couple that split up after raising a child together for a few years. The biological mother refused to grant visitation to the child’s non-biological mother even though she was involved in and financially contributed to the in vitro process from the beginning and was the child’s legal “coparent”.

The Ohio Supreme Court, however, said that a “shared parenting” arrangement with a nonparent, same-sex partner is not equivalent to a “shared-custody” agreement in which “a parent can grant custody rights to a nonparent and will be bound by the agreement.” The court also has discretion to award custody based on the “best interests” of the child. Apparently, letting the child’s mother have parenting rights is not in the best interests of the child.

This case is important for two reasons.... 

Click "Read more.." to read the rest of the article and see the full case decision.

SEE RELATED POST: Legally Different: Heterosexuals are "spouses" and Homosexuals are "non-blood relatives"

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One, it is apparent the biological mother simply did not want the non-biological mother in her life anymore and thus used the state’s inherently anti-gay laws to her advantage. She testified that she never intended for her partner to be a permanent parent, which is curious since they were both involved in conceiving and raising the child equally until they split up. Also, why would she go through the trouble of drafting legal documents if she did not want her partner to be a legal parent? Same-sex couples need to be more careful about creating bad case law that could harm the LGBT community, even when it serves your best personal interests.

Second, we must strive to learn from situations like this and adapt our laws to fix the gaps in the system. The court said: 

“We do not agree with appellant’s argument that “coparent” equals “shared legal custody” and that because the parties’ statements and various documents used the “coparent” terminology, the parties therefore clearly agreed to “shared legal custody.” “Coparenting” is not synonymous with an agreement by the biological parent to permanently relinquish sole custody in favor of shared legal parenting.”
The court also went further and stated the biological father of the child (who happens to be a gay friend of the biological mother) has more parenting rights than the non-biological mother. Surely, it is not in the best interests of the child to be torn away from a parent simply because she is a lesbian and not the biological mother.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pfeifer stated my thoughts perfectly in his dissent:
"Once a natural parent promises a coparenting relationship with another person and acts on that promise, she has created a relationship between the coparent and the child that has its own life. The natural parent cannot simply declare that relationship over. That is what Kelly Mullen attempts to do in this case and what the majority decision allows. Now, no court will ever determine whether it is in Lucy Mullen’s best interests to have a continuing relationship with the woman she calls “Momma,” Michele Hobbs. Because the juvenile court in this case at the very least should have gotten to the point of making that best-interests determination, I dissent."
This is why marriage is so important, as this would never happen to a married couple.
In re Mullen Thank you for the support!


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