This fall I’m finding it hard to write during the week while I’m teaching, but since it is now the weekend, there are no excuses. And since it is a long weekend, maybe I can even get TWO posts out. We shall see. But in any event, there’s current events to discuss.
For many years now (Could it be 25?) New York families–and particularly New York lesbian families–have had to organize their lives around a narrow and inflexible view of who counts as a legal parent. That was the result of an (in)famous case known as Alison D. v. Virginia M. I’ve written about it many times in the past as you can see from this link.
Alison D dealt with a situation which is regrettably common: A lesbian couple decides to have a child together. One woman (call her “D” gets pregnant and gives birth. As planned, they parent the child together. At some point the women split up and, using the law, the woman who gives birth (that’s D, remember?) attempts to excise her former partner (let’s call her P) from the child’s life. This even though P is the child’s psychological/social parent. Continue reading
I’m detouring from surrogacy to write about an important new decision from New Jersey. The opinion, issued by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, is here. I’m going to take a bit of time to lay out the facts before discussing the issues raised and resolved. Do note that the case is subject to further appeal in New Jersey as well as subsequent proceedings in the lower court should the appellate opinion stand.
KAF and FD were a lesbian couple. They began living together in 1999. They decided to have a child together. They used sperm from a donor and Arthur was born in 2002. They relationship did not thrive and in 2004 they split up. However, unlike many lesbian couples who show up in court cases, they got along well enough afterwards and in 2005 FD adopted Arthur. (She did so with KAF’s approval, which I’m quite sure was required.) Continue reading
I know I’ve been silent for quite a while. Bit of a break. But there’s a new opinion that has brought me back to the keyboard. It’s from the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and is yet one more case of the breakup of a lesbian family. (Sadly you’ll find a number of those on the blog. Because the legal status of lesbian co-parents can be unclear there is often the opportunity for litigation if things get messy.)
For the purposes of its decision the court took the facts as stated by the petitioner, Susan B. I will do the same.
Susan and Melissa D met in 1997. They held a commitment ceremony (no legal marriage that time) in 1998. They wanted to have a family and bought a house together. Melissa gave birth to Madeline in 2002. She was conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor who shared Susan’s Irish heritage.
Many details seem to confirm Susan’s status as a parent (and here I mean social status):
Susan and Melissa decided to give Madelyn Susan’s middle and last names.
Susan and Melissa were both named as Madelyn’s parents in the birth announcements sent to friends and family and printed in the local newspaper, as well as in a “dedication ceremony” held in the Unitarian Universalist Church when Madelyn was a year old. Susan was listed as Madelyn’s parent in her preschool documents and in her medical records. Susan was involved in the daily care of Madelyn, and Susan and Melissa jointly made all decisions involved in raising Madelyn, including decisions regarding health care, education, and religion.
First off, thanks to Natalie Gamble and Bill Singer for pointing me towards this case. It’s actually a nice complement to the Jason Patric case, which has been the focus of a lot of recent discussion here.
A lesbian couple in the UK wanted to have children. One woman provided eggs. (She’s the genetic mother.) These were fertilized in vitro and the resulting embryos were transferred to the other woman’s uterus. (She’s the gestational mother.) The gestational mother gave birth to twins.
Both women cared for the children with the genetic mother assuming the role of stay-at-home mom. As some point one of the earlier-created embryos was transferred to the uterus of the genetic mother and a third child was born. (The third child is a full genetic sibling to the twins.) Continue reading
There’s a lot of discussion (some parts of it more relevant than others, some parts of it more temperate than others) about the Jason Patric case–both here and out there in the world. (I do not really mean to suggest that you should read the 152 comments (a number of which are mine) on my post. That’s way over the top, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s part of the reason for starting with a new post.)
Anyway, I’ll remind you a bit about the case and what I think of it, but then move on to some broader observations. Patric provided sperm used to impregnant Schneider. Patric and Schneider had been a couple and had tried to conceive a child via sex. But that hadn’t worked–either the couple part or the conception part. I think it is agreed that by the time they were doing insemination they were not a couple. (If’ I’m wrong, by all means correct me.)
Schneider gave birth to Gus. Patric played some role in Gus’ life. (The details of what role are surely in dispute.) Patric wanted legal recognition as a parent. Continue reading
As you may have read elsewhere, the appellate court in California has ruled on the parentage case brought by Jason Patric. (You can get to the opinion from this page if you look under opinions issued on May 14.). The papers paint this as a victory for Patric, which is correct, but they also (at least the headlines I’ve seen) get the details wrong.
I’ve written about this case before and it’s certainly gotten it’s share of media coverage. I won’t recite the facts (which are sharply contested) in any detail, but it’s interesting and important to read the facts as recited by the court. Critically, Patric provided sperm for the insemination of Danielle Schreiber. The pregnancy resulted from insemination. And after the birth of the child (Gabe) Patric developed a social/psychological relationship with Gus. (This very barebones version of the facts may actually be consistent with both sides’ versions.)
So the court said several important things. First, the fact that Patric provided the sperm doesn’t make him a parent. It also doesn’t give him the right to establish any particular relationship with the child. (That’s footnote 10 and is a point that Patric conceded.).
Second, the fact that Patric provided sperm doesn’t preclude him from using California law that would be available to anyone else Continue reading
A couple of days ago I blogged about the contested parentage case involving Jason Patric. There’s been a bunch of discussion there and as I was reading through it I thought of an interesting variation on the problem.
To be clear, this has absolutely no basis in fact, as far as I know. But since (as I pointed out before) we really don’t know the facts that seems fine to me. Instead, a variation like this (what law professors generally call “hypothetical”) allows you to test you thinking about legal rules. It allows you to see which facts would matter to you–and that in turn can lead to questions about why those facts matter.
With all that in mind, here’s the imaginative exercise. Suppose they facts are as we know them–which is to say that there is disagreement between the parties about what exactly the plan was, but somehow the plan went forward. Further, suppose that (as is the case) after the birth of the child the man played some role in his life. (We can talk about what role if you like–but in the real case that’s a part of the contested facts, so I won’t lay it out here). But now suppose that just before heading into court we learn that, through some terrible error, the sperm used to create the child was NOT Jason Patric’s. Continue reading