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Lesbian couple settles 7-year child custody dispute

As our technology moves forward, so too must the laws that govern the use of that technology. Advances in reproductive medicine, for example, can have enormous implications for family law, as they can lead to complicated questions of custody and child support.

Unfortunately, in some cases our laws both here in Pennsylvania and in other states have a tendency to lag behind our technology, and situations arise for which the law has no ready answer. This was the case for a Florida lesbian couple, who only recently resolved a child custody dispute that began in 2006.

The couple gave birth to a child in 2004, using a donor egg from one woman that was then implanted in the other woman. One mother considered herself the birth mother, and the other referred to herself as the biological mother.

Two years after the child was born, the couple split up. The birth mother took the child out of the country, apparently without leaving any contact information for the biological mother. Using a private investigator, however, the biological mother located the birth mother in Australia.

This touched off a lengthy series of court cases and appeals. The birth mother contended that the biological mother was, in the eyes of the law, nothing more than a donor. Since Florida law prevents donors from seeking child custody, she contended that the biological mother had no paternal rights.

Initially, the trial judge agreed with this assertion, awarding custody only to the birth mother. In his ruling, however, he noted that he hoped his decision would be appealed.

It was. The biological mother took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that she was far more than simply a donor. She noted that there was a clear volume of evidence that showed both women had planned to raise the child together even before the girl was conceived.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with the biological mother, noting that she had a right to raise the daughter she clearly loved and supported. The two mothers will therefore share joint custody, just as many other couples do nationwide.

Source: CBS News, "Fla. Supreme Court settles lesbian custody battle" No Author Given, Nov. 07, 2013

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