This week I want to talk about 2 terrible recent decisions involving lesbian moms – and some information about how lesbian families can and should protect themselves.
The first was a case in Oklahoma – Kris and Rebekah decided to have a baby together. They searched for a known donor and found Harlan, who lived in Texas. Rebekah (who was to be the birth mom) and Harlan signed a donor agreement and he provided the sperm. The 2 women got married in June 2019 and their son was born 2 months later. Kris was there at the birth, her name was on the birth certificate and the child was given Kris’ last name. Rebecca blogged about the situation, and about how they wanted their son to know his “dad.” But all was not well. In October, 2021, Harlan moved to Oklahoma to live near them, and by December 2, 2021, Rebekah and the baby left Kris and moved in with Harlan. Rebekah filed for divorce and obtained a 5 year order of protection against Kris (it’s not clear why). The next month, Harlan filed for paternity. On February 13, 2023, the Oklahoma County District Court issued a ruling in favor of Harlan’s paternity petition and stripped Kris of her parental rights.
In the other case, rendered just this week in Pennsylvania, Nicole and Chanel used an anonymous donor. While Chanel was pregnant, they hired a lawyer to start the process for a second parent adoption, and signed affidavits affirming their intention that they would be equal parents.” However, Chanel filed for divorce a month before the baby was to be born and changed her mind about the adoption. Nicole filed a petition asking for a pre-birth Judgment of Parentage, which was granted. (We now have these in NYS, too.) However, last Friday, the Pennsylvania Superior Court said that Nicole had no “enforceable contract” that conferred her parental rights.
Both of these cases are disturbing. In the Oklahoma case, Kris, who had planned to conceive and raise a child with the birth mother (the standard in New York), was married to the birth mother, whose name was on the birth certificate, who had actively parented the child and whose last name the child shared — was stripped of her parental rights without any finding of abuse or neglect. And the known donor was given an order of paternity. In Pennsylvania, the pre-birth judgment was granted but Nicole was stripped of her parental rights even before the baby was born – again without any finding of neglect or abuse.
Both cases emphasize the importance of intended parents establishing their legal relationship with the child – and being listed on the birth certificate is not enough. I’ve stopped doing second parent adoptions for now, but I still feel passionately about them. So if this is you (or someone you love), write to me and I’ll refer you to some great folks who do them.