Court rules non-biological mom's parental rights cannot be terminated

When same-sex couples decide to become parents, legal issues related to parental rights must be taken into consideration. In cases where same-sex parents split or divorce, steps that were or were not taken both prior to and after a child's birth, often dictate future child custody considerations and determinations. The child custody dispute between a former same-sex couple in another state illustrates this point.

In the case, the state's Supreme Court was asked to make a determination related to the parental rights of a lesbian women who was of no biological relation to the child she helped raise with her then female partner. The lesbian couple had been together for roughly five years when the baby, who was conceived using a sperm donor, was born. Together, the girl's biological mother and her partner raised the girl with both taking an active role in the girl's upbringing.

The couple and their daughter lived together and the non-biological mom was listed as a parent on several key documents including the girl's birth announcement and medical records. Additionally, she was named as the girl's legal guardian. After raising the girl together for six years, the women broke up. The girl's biological mother subsequently married a man and sought to legally terminate her former partner's parental rights. While a family court initially ruled in the biological mom's favor, citing that her former partner had no parental rights over the child, the state's Supreme Court overruled the lower court's decision. In their ruling the Supreme Court asserted that biology alone does not equate to parentage. The court asserted its decision was based upon the actions of the non-biological parent both prior to and after the girl's birth citing that, "paternity presumptions give great weight to familial relationships developed between a parent and child." The non-biological mom’s involvement in the child's life as well as her financial contributions and responsibilities to the child could not be discounted. Source: Courthouse News Service, "New Hampshire Lesbian's Paternity Suit Revived," Lorraine Bailey, July 9, 2014