January 12, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Court gives marital rights to out-of-state domestic partnership
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently handed down a ruling that will affect the parental custody rights of some same-sex partners in the state. The court ruled that a same-sex domestic partnership that was entered into in California is the equivalent of a Massachusetts marriage. Furthermore, the court decided that children that were born after the domestic partnership was entered into are legally the children of both the partners.
About the case
The facts of the case started when Miko Rose and Amy Hunter entered into a declaration of domestic partnership, which was registered under California law. In California, parties in a domestic partnership have the same rights as married parties.
Rose used donor sperm to become pregnant and moved to Massachusetts with Hunter. She successfully gave birth to a daughter that they named Jill. Hunter later became pregnant with the same donor sperm that was used to conceive Jill. However, before she gave birth, the relationship between Rose and herself broke up. Hunter later gave birth to the second child, Mia.
After the dissolution of the relationship, Rose filed a lawsuit to prevent contact between Hunter and Jill, although she had been Jill's primary care-giver. In doing so, Rose argued that since they were not married, Hunter had no parental rights.
The court rejected Rose's arguments and ruled that both Rose and Hunter are the legal parents of the two children. The court reasoned that in Massachusetts law says that children born during a marriage are presumed to be children of both spouses. Since California law gives same-sex domestic partnerships virtually the same rights of marriages, the court found that Rose and Hunter's domestic partnership was the equivalent of a Massachusetts marriage and that they were entitled to the same rights.
Having concluded this, the court gave Hunter parental rights to Jill (the child born to Rose). In addition, the court applied the same legal analysis that is used in all Massachusetts child custody cases and decided to award Hunter physical custody of Jill. Finally, since Rose did not want custody of Mia, it also awarded Hunter custody of Mia. However, Rose was legally obligated to pay child support for both children.
Effect of decision
In Massachusetts divorces, a court makes child custody and visitation decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child (or children). In doing so, Massachusetts courts award custody to the parent whom it believes can best meet the child's needs. Since the court decided that domestic partners from other states have the same rights as those married in Massachusetts, the court made it clear that the same legal principles used to decide child custody matters during a divorce would also apply to the dissolution of same-sex domestic partnerships that were originally formed out-of-state.
Massachusetts child custody law is complex and evolving. Every family's situation is different. Because of this, if you are considering a divorce, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney for advice and guidance.
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