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
There’s an excellent blog run by the people at Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality. It’s had a couple of recent postings on pending cases involving claims by lesbian mothers. One is in New York, the other Puerto Rico. In both cases the Center has filed amicus briefs.
The New York case arises in a situation that is all too familiar: two women decide to raise a child together. One gives birth. Both parent the child. At some point the women break up. The woman who gave birth has a clear legal right to be recognized as a parent. The woman who did not give birth does not have such a clear right. The legal mother asserts that the non-legal mother is not a parent and attempts to cut off all contact between the non-legal mother and the child. I’ve written about a number of these cases from various states. Continue reading
Time to offer a small note on a couple of developments from the last few days. Both concern lesbian mothers and both are discussed further on other great blogs–I’ll link accordingly.
New York: I’m listing this one first because it’s the more important in the long-run. I wrote some time agoabout a NY case involving a dispute between two lesbian moms. I won’t recap that discussion here–you can easily go read it. The bottom line is that a lesbian mother lost because her ex invoked an existing New York precedent, Alison D. v. Virgina M, that rejects the idea that a second mother could be entitled to legal recognition by virtue of having played the role of parent for some time. Put another way, Alison D v. Virgina M says that there are no de facto parents in New York State. Continue reading
There’s an interesting and really somewhat unusual case out of Maine this past week. You can read either the press account or the actual opinion, but I’ll also summarize it here. I actually think this ties in rather nicely with some of the recent posts I’ve done on adoption.
Olive Watson and Patricia Spado were a lesbian couple. Watson is the daughter of Thomas Watson, Jr, a former president of IBM. As such, she was part of a very wealthy family.
Watson and Spado were together for 12 years or so. During that time, Spado quit her job and moved in with Watson. While they primarily lived in New York, they had a vacation home in Maine that the visited each year.
Spado was financially dependant on Watson and understandably Watson wanted to protect Spado in the event something were to happen to her. For a heterosexual couple the obvious move would have been to get married. But of course, that wasn’t possible for Spado and Watson. So Watson decided to adopt Spado. Continue reading
For a couple of entries now I’ve been talking about a recent Kentucky Court of Appeals decision. Though I think it is worth going back to read the other posts (I would, wouldn’t I?), what I want to do now is use the case as a taking-off point to consider two general questions that I came to think about along the way.
First I’ve been thinking about adoption. Adoption is a formal process that creates a legally-recognized parent/child relationship. One of the more basic characteristics of adoption, at least as it is generally practiced in the US (and I suspect much more broadly) is that it requires termination of the existing legal relationship with the pre-adoption parent(s). In other words the new (adoptive) parents take the place of the preceding (natural?) parents.
I want to actually stop and think about this for a moment. Why does it have to be that way? I can easily see why in some instances you would want it that way, but should it generally be assumed that this is the way you should want it? This is an important point because step-parent and second-parent adoptions (when the latter are allowed) are significant exceptions to the general rule. Because they are exceptions, they need to be carefully justified. Continue reading