Waldlaw Blog

Thursday, June 23, 2005


For the first time in California history, a Court of Appeal just ruled that a non-biological lesbian mother has the right to claim legal parentage based on her established parental relationship with the child she and her partner jointly conceived and raised for over two years. This may sound like common sense to some of you, but it is a huge victory for those of us who have spent the past couple of decades losing these cases. Some background: A couple of years ago, my phone rang. It was a woman named Angela, calling from Los Angeles, and I honestly don't even remember how she got my name, although it probably was through the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Anyway, she and her partner had had a child by artificial insemination, and had raised the child together for a couple of years before separating. Angela had always provided health insurance for the child, had claimed the child on her taxes, and had continued to support the child even after the break-up. For a brief period -- while the child was placed in dependency proceedings due to the state's concern about the biological mother's fitness -- Angela had actually been recognized as what's called a "de facto parent" by the courts, and had been granted court-ordered visitation. But when the dependency proceedings were terminated, and Angela asked a family court to enforce her legal right to visitation, the family court found that she was a "legal stranger" to the child and refused her request for continued contact. When I heard about this case, aside from my usual anger and distress at all such cases, I thought "this is the case we can win!" I called my colleagues at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and encouraged them to take the case themselves, instead of trying to find other counsel for Angela. The NCLR attorneys agreed to represent Angela, and have done an incredible job litigating the case -- as they always do. And yesterday, it all paid off. As stated by the Court: "A preliminary review of the facts indicates that there is evidence to show that [Angela] held out [the child] as her son and received him into her home. [Angela] planned the insemination of [her ex-partner]; paid for the medical procedure; was present at the birth; decorated the nursery; informed family members that she was going to adopt [the child]; took [the child] to medical appointments; put him on her health plan as her son; and paid child support after she separated from [her ex-partner]." Based on these facts, the Court of Appeal concluded that Angela meets the statutory and case law definitions of a "presumed mother" and has a right to petition for joint custody of and/or visitation with her son. The case is now remanded to the trial court for findings on Angela's parental status consistent with the appellate court's judgment -- and one more child born to a lesbian couple finally may get to have two legal parents instead of just one. A small victory maybe, but one well worth celebrating!


  • Congratulations to both mother and son, and everyone else who follows. What a wonderful victory.

    By Blogger KC, at 10:57 PM  

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