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Child custody ruling establishes "de facto" parenthood

When most custody cases come before a court of law in Florida or elsewhere, the parties include a mother and father who cannot come to terms on the care and custody of their shared child or children. There are cases, however, that do not fit this norm. An example is found in a recent child custody case that has led to the establishment of a controversial doctrine in one East Coast state.

The case centers on a little boy who was born to a same-sex couple. One of the women became pregnant through artificial insemination, and the couple wed six months after the child's birth. The other woman took on the role of parent to the child, although the couple split just a year later. The second woman did not legally adopt the child and is not listed as a parent on his birth certificate.

The woman sought custody through a court action, but lost when the court ruled that she did not have the standing to challenge the biological mother's custody rights. The state's Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling. When the case reached the state's Supreme Court, a ruling was issued to reverse the lower Court's opinion. The ruling states that when a biological parent promotes and encourages a parental-type relationship with a third party, then that party has standing to challenge custody and visitation issues, without the need to show that the biological parent is unfit.

This outcome is being heralded as a win among gay rights advocates. However, many people fear that allowing the "de facto" parenthood doctrine to influence the outcome of child custody cases will have drastic negative consequences for families in Florida and across the nation. Essentially, these types of rulings open a door to establishing a new form of parenthood, and new means of obtaining parental rights. That is a concern for many, and this case and others like it could spark a national debate about just what it takes to be a parent in the eyes of the law.  

Source: cnsnews.com, "Maryland's Highest Court Establishes "De Facto Parenthood" in Lesbian Divorce and Custody Case", Jeannette Richard, July 12, 2016

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