This summer, Illinois joined more than a dozen states that now recognize same-sex marriage. However, even though it is now legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, adopt children and divorce in these states, there are many issues on which the law still needs to catch up.
In fact, courts all over the country are now dealing with many unique family law issues after making same-sex marriage legal.
For example, in New Hampshire, a state that approved same-sex marriage in 2010, the state Supreme Court recently decided to apply a paternity statute granting parental rights to non-biological fathers who are heavily involved in a child’s upbringing to a case involving a former same-sex couple.
The case involved a lesbian couple who had a daughter together in 2002. The daughter was only biologically related to one of the women, but the other woman was called the child’s parent in the child’s birth announcement, her preschool documents and her medical records.
Additionally, the non-biological mother was made the child’s legal guardian.
Six years later, the two women broke up and eventually the biological mother married a man. She then sought to have the non-biological mother’s parental rights terminated so that her husband could adopt the child. The non-biological mother fought the efforts.
Originally, a family court held that the non-biological mother had no parental rights to the child, but this month the state Supreme Court disagreed.
The court reasoned that the state’s paternity presumption — which applies to non-biological fathers — recognizes the valid parent-child relationships that are developed over years of living together, regardless of a biological relationship, and now, regardless of gender.
While this case is not binding in the state of Illinois, it is common for state courts to look at the decisions made in other jurisdictions when deciding similar issues.
The case also demonstrates how important it is for same-sex couples to seek legal guidance when going through adoptions to ensure that the parental rights of both parents are protected.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “New Hampshire Lesbian’s Paternity Suit Revived,” Lorraine Bailey, July 9, 2014