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Supreme Court might review same-sex, child custody case

Photo of Karen Lavin

An out-of-state couple's split could make waves nationally, should the Supreme Court of the United States decide to review their case. At the center of the family law case is the matter of same-sex couples and custody of children who develop out of that relationship. 

As you can surmise, it is an important, emotional issue to all couples out there who use alternative methods to have children. In the case of this lesbian couple, one of the women is the biological mother of three children that were born during the relationship. But will the non-biological parent retain any rights to the kids now that the union is over? The result of this case could impact similar Illinois cases.

The non-biological parent in the relationship raised the kids with her now ex-partner for several years, until the couple split up in 2011. She claims to be the adoptive mother of the kids based on a Georgia court ruling, but the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that the adoption is not legit; therefore, the woman has no visitation or custodial rights. 

Currently, the Supreme Court has stayed the Alabama court's ruling, protecting the woman's visitation rights at least until it decides whether to fully review the child custody case. Part of the review will include the reading of some controversial opinions given by the Alabama court. For example, one justice wrote, "the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging that children be adopted into the optimal family structure, i.e., one with both a father and a mother."

Since this specific family law case began, the Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to deny marriage between members of the same sex. All states are legally required to recognize same-sex marriages. While the couple in this child custody dispute was not married, one might believe that the Supreme Court would apply a more accepting attitude toward the non-biological parent who wants to be a parent to the kids in this case.

Of course, the court doesn't create any new laws or make rulings based on changing attitudes. Rather, it evaluates whether certain issues are legal or illegal according to the constitution. No matter if or how the court rules on this child custody case, this case shows how complicated issues for same-sex couples, child custody and adoption can be. Someone who is dealing with all or any of these family law matters should seek clarity and guidance from a lawyer in their area.

We will share a new post when there is an update in this important case. 

Source: New York Times, "Justices Favor Lesbian Adoptive Mother in Visitation Case," Adam Liptak, Dec. 14, 2015

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