This New Jersey case has been on my mind for the last couple of days. I’m a little worried about my understanding of New Jersey law (and I’m hoping someone can check me on it) but it seems to highlight some of the odd ways the law can work.
Sheena and Tiara Yates are a lesbian couple who live in Pennsville, New Jersey. They have two children. Both were conceived using sperm from men (two different men) who were meant to be donors. As I understand the story, both men signed contracts that purported to give up any parental rights. Yet each man changed his mind and each sued for recognition as a legal parent and the right to spend time with the child conceived with his sperm. (Once you gain recognition as a legal parent, it’s far easier to claim an entitlement to time with the child.) One man won his case and the other has yet to be decided. Continue reading
I know I’ve been quite sporadic here–this semester seems a good deal more absorbing than others have recently, particularly because I am in the editing process for a piece on surrogacy that I wrote. (I’ll let you all know when it is out.) But today’s New York Times brings a story worthy of comment. So here I am.
The story is here. I don’t have a link to the actual decision, which was a few weeks back, I believe. The basic structure of the case will be familiar to those who read the blog, though as always the details are different. I’m sorry to say that this seems like a particularly sad iteration of an already-sad story. It’s worth noting at the outset that most of what we know is from one party’s point of view as the other didn’t talk to the reporter. For this reason, and also because even when you have both sides you don’t really know what happened, I’m going with a fairly bare-bones version of the story. I’m not interested in arguing about specific facts when none of us know what they are.
Jann and Jamie were a lesbian couple. Neither of their lives had been easy. Jamie wanted to have a child, which Jann wasn’t sure was a great idea given their relationship. They decided to go forward and Jamie gave birth to a boy in November, 2011. (It appears that they did home insemination, which is something else to discuss, but I’m not sure it matters as the case played out.) The women were married in, I think, January 2012. (Order is critical here. I think it fairly clear that if they had married two months or so earlier, Jann’s legal rights would have been secured.) Continue reading
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading here regularly, I’ve run across a whole string of cases involving the marital presumption recently. (This is the presumption that a child born to a married woman is the (legal) child of the woman’s husband.) These cases all arise when a man who is not the woman’s husband can invoke DNA testing to demonstrate that he is the genetic father of the child. And then the question is “what next?”
In most of these recent cases the husband and wife standing together can fend off the genetic father. There’s a sort of “he should have known better” response. (If the husband doesn’t want to claim legal parentage, he typically doesn’t have to.) In one (from CA), the case is remanded for further proceedings, though my sense was the husband was likely to win there.
Here’s yet another of the cases, this one from Kansas, decided by the court of appeals there last week. I think it follows the path laid out in CA though the ultimate outcome seems less clear to me. Continue reading
There’s a new opinion from Texas that serves as a bit of a cautionary tale. Marvin McMurray and his partner wanted to have children. A friend of Cindy Close agreed that she would become pregnant via IVF using embryos that were created from McMurray’s sperm and an egg from an unknown provider. Close gave birth to twins–twins she was not genetically related to.
I think what I’ve said so far is what everyone agrees about. But if that looks like an odd telling of the story, it’s because at the core of the story is a fundamental disagreement and so I haven’t recited it. Instead I’ll give you two versions–keeping in mind that I have NO IDEA what’s true here.
McMurray version: Close was a friend helping out McMurray and his partner by serving as a surrogate. She wasn’t going to be a parent to the children. (It says she would play “no role” but I assume this might mean “no special role” since if she’s a good friend she’d like be around some.).
Close version: McMurray was aware of Close’s desire to have children and they agreed to coparent. (This of course makes me wonder about why the third party egg, but there could be reasons for that.) Continue reading
I’ve been teaching the cases that I’ve recently posted here–the string of cases from CA, UT and MI in which a woman gives birth and both her husband and her ex-lover want to be legal parents to the child. In each of them the ex-lover is the genetic father of the child. In two of the cases the husband wins decisively. The one from CA is less clear–it is remanded for further proceedings. But it seems very unlikely to me that the genetic father can prevail under the described test.
As I reread the cases I was struck by the ways in which the different courts justified their conclusions. I thought it was worth summing them up here.
Before I do that, though, I want to note that none of these are really constitutional cases. Continue reading
I’m returning to a theme I’ve written about before here. I’m doing this for two reasons. First of all, before is about four years ago and many readers may not have been readers then (or if they were, they may have forgotten about this). In addition, I am a different person today than I was then (then being 2010) and so perhaps I have something different to say.
In fact, I think the same thing has moved me to write today as moved me to write in 2010: Michael H vs. Gerald D. I won’t discuss it in any detail here. You can read the opinions (though it’s not an easy slog) or you can read the earlier posts about it. But for today’s purpose a quick outline will suffice.
Carole was married to Gerald. She had an affair with Michael. She got pregnant and Victoria was born. Victoria is (let us assume, as it was a 98% likely proposition) genetically related to Michael. Carole and Victoria live for a time with Michael and for a time with Gerald, but eventually it seems that Carole and Gerald reconcile and settle down. Continue reading
The two core legal relationships in family law are marriage (legal relationship between adults) and parenthood (legal relationship between adult and child). Over the years there’s been a lot here on the blog about the connections between those two relationships. But there seem to be an infinite number of ways to come at this and recently I’ve been pondering a couple of slightly different ways to think about this.
First off, I wanted to briefly comment on a tension that arises about the connection between marriage and parenthood in litigation around access to marriage for same-sex couples. There’s been a lot on the blog about the marriage cases and the role parenthood plays in them. The very recent MI opinion is a fine place to see this.
On the one hand, both side in marriage litigation agree that it is best to raise children within a marriage. Now I find this a rather problematic argument to rely on (and I’ll come back to that shortly) but like it or not it is a view that advocates and opponents of access to marriage share. And given that, it’s unsurprising that it’s a view that is affirmed in virtually every court opinion. Continue reading