Mother wins battle to keep sole custody of child in same-sex dispute
COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a case that is reminiscent of the now-famous Lisa Miller case, a biological mother has retained the sole custody of her daughter after a court ruled in her favor in a dispute with her former same-sex partner.
The Supreme Court of Ohio upheld lower court rulings on Tuesday that Kelly Mullen, who had allowed her same-sex partner, Michele Hobbs, to “coparent” Mullen’s daughter, who was born via in vitro fertilization while the two women were in a relationship, did not permanently give up her right to exclusive custody of the child.
The court ruled that it was a revocable relationship and did not create a permanent shared custody agreement with the partner.
“‘Coparenting’ is not synonymous with an agreement by the biological parent to permanently relinquish sole custody in favor of shared legal parenting,” the ruling stated, thereby recognizing the need to protect the biological mother’s constitutional rights to raise her child.
After living together with Hobbs for several years, Mullen decided to have a child through in vitro fertilization in 2003. Hobbs was listed as Mullen’s “partner” on the medical documents related to the pregnancy and birth. But after the partners separated in 2007, Mullen decided not to permit Hobbs to have any contact with her child. Hobbs reacted by filing for legal custody of Mullen’s daughter.
Although Hobbs had no legal basis for custody of the child, Hamilton County Juvenile Court decided that Hobbs should be granted custody, because she acted like a parent and was listed as a “coparent” in a few documents.
However, Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Lipps reversed the ruling. “The most important factor in the determination of whether the mother’s words, actions and deeds amounted to a contractual relinquishment of some of her custodial rights was her consistent refusal to enter into a shared custody agreement,” stated Lipps.
“This is a great victory for parental rights,” said Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, who filed an amicus brief in support of Mullen’s parental rights.
“A person who is neither the biological parent nor an adoptive parent cannot be a de facto parent by merely alleging an emotional bond to the child,” said Staver.
The case bears a striking resemblance to that of Lisa Miller, a Christian and an ex-lesbian who fled the United States with her daughter in 2009 before a court could transfer custody to her former lesbian partner.
Miller had given birth to her daughter Isabella, now eight years old, while living in a Vermont civil union with sex partner Janet Jenkins. Isabella was conceived through artificial insemination, and Jenkins never adopted the child.