The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that a child can have two parents of the same sex, even if they have not done a second-parent adoption. This is good news—but behind it is yet another case of a biological mother trying to deny parental rights to a nonbiological mother.
Lisa Limberis and Sabrina Havens decided to have a child together. After one round of assisted insemination failed, Havens had sex with a male friend and conceived. The man relinquished all rights to the child. The child bears Limberis’ last name. The women both parented the child despite several breakups and reconciliations. Limberis petitioned for a second-parent adoption, but her petition was dismissed, and the custody case ruling does not explain why.
Although the two continued to co-parent even after their final separation, Havens eventually ended contact between their daughter and Limberis. Limberis then petitioned to be named a mother under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), a set of rules adopted by many states.
The Court of Appeals ruled December 5 that a child can have two mothers under the UPA:
The prerogative of a child to claim the love and support of two parents does not evaporate simply because the parents are the same sex. It applies to all children, regardless of whether they were conceived during a heterosexual or same-sex relationship. Thus, we conclude that a child who is born during a same-sex relationship can have two legal parents of the same sex, if the nonbiological parent can demonstrate presumptive parenthood under the UPA.
They said that it is up to the trial court to determine if Limberis meets the criteria of “presumptive parenthood,” however. That outcome is still pending. It is also possible, as the Denver Post reports, that Havens could take the case to the state Supreme Court.
For the moment, though, this is a good outcome for nonbiological and nonadoptive mothers. As the court wrote:
The UPA does not define the parent-child relationship based only on biological or adoptive connections to a child. . . . To the contrary, the UPA reflects the legislature’s intent to allow a man or woman to prove paternity or maternity based upon considerations other than biology or adoption. . . . parent-child relationship may be demonstrated by, among other things, marriage, a written acknowledgment of paternity, consent to be named on the birth certificate, a promise to pay child support, or receiving the child into one’s home and holding the child out as a natural child.
A word of warning, however: LGBT legal experts say it is still a good idea to do a second-parent adoption if you can, as extra insurance of your parental rights.
These types of custody disputes have unfortunately been around for a very long time. GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) has even created a set of standards for parents and attorneys to follow to try and stop the propagation of such cases. I know, break ups are hard. But can’t we all learn to act like responsible adults with some objective sense of the best interests of our children?