When same-sex couples in Austin raise children, the nonbiological parent is typically required to complete an adoption before Texas will recognize any parental rights. In the event of a separation, a nonbiological parent without legal protection may lose visitation rights and lack the grounds to seek child custody. While Texas has yet to validate civil unions, some states are placing nearly equal emphasis on family bonds as biological parentage.
An child custody dispute involving a female same-sex couple was resolved on Feb. 22 after a judge recognized the nonbiological mother’s bid for parental rights. The two women reportedly arranged for artificial insemination and even signed a co-parenting plan confirming their intention to raise a family jointly with equal obligation.
Once the couple separated, the biological mother restricted her former partner’s visitation time with the two girls and eventually relocated to Texas. In an initial county court ruling, the judge awarded joint custody and parenting time to the nonbiological mother, considering the decision to be most beneficial for the children.
The biological mother’s appeal brought the case before the Kansas Supreme Court. Ironically, the woman’s arguments suggested that the state had no jurisdiction over child custody cases, unless they involve traditional marriages. Reports say the court opposed this view, considering the support of two parents to be of more importance than a strictly biological connection. The two children, aged 8 and 10, had formed lifelong bonds with both women, so the court presumably viewed a forced separation as contrary to the children’s best interests.
In this case, the judge believed it was lawful to honor the co-parenting plan the couple had previously agreed upon. Families in states with stricter civil union laws may not encounter this level of flexibility and should prepare for any legal obstacles that could affect the well-being of children in the future. Careful research of Texas family laws and legal options for nonbiological parents may help families avoid stressful child custody disputes.
Source: The Kansas City Star, “Kansas Supreme Court upholds lesbian mother’s rights,” Tony Rizzo, Feb. 22, 2013