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Same-sex parents still face child custody challenges

Most Pennsylvania residents are aware that the Supreme Court legitimized same-sex marriage several years ago. What many are not aware of is that parental rights and status were not expressly granted in that decision. That has left many same-sex parents facing an uphill battle when it comes to asserting their rights to remain closely connected with their child through a fair child custody determination.

An example is found in a current case in which two women married and then sought the services of a sperm donor to bring their son into the world. When their marriage came to an end, the women were unable to reach an agreement regarding parenting rights and responsibilities. The woman who gave birth to the boy claimed that she has the only legal motherhood status.

The other woman, who has visitation rights and makes child support payments, has not yet received parental rights. At the same time, the man who donated sperm so that the couple could add to their family has been granted parental status. That leaves the courts in a difficult position.

The non-biological mother claims that her rights have been unfairly constricted. Her attorney points out that, if the biological mother were to die, the child's other parent would have to fight for the right to raise her son, who could become a ward of the state in the meantime. The court is also being asked to consider how to handle the parental rights of the sperm donor if the second mother is granted parental status.

This unusual child custody case illustrates the struggles that same-sex parents continue to face regarding legal connections to their children. While this case is not playing out in Pennsylvania, the outcome could affect the rights of Pennsylvania couples. Even though same-sex couples now have the right to marry, their parental rights are far from settled.

Source:, "Mississippi woman seeks parental rights in same-sex divorce", Jeff Amy, Nov. 29, 2017

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