Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Missouri court deprives one child of a second mom and the other of child support

The number of states that disregard a child's second mother grows. I don't know whether to scream or cry. I do know that if judges cannot see the family in front of their eyes then the answer lies in changing state statutes to recognize two parents of a child born through donor insemination.

Here is the latest disaster, which adds Missouri to the hall of shame. Leslea and Michelle White (Michelle changed her surname to Leslea's...a heterosexual custom I wish same-sex couples would discard...but I digress) had been together for about 4 years when Michelle gave birth to one child, C.E.W. Two and a half years later, using the same anonymous semen donor, Leslea gave birth to their second child, Z.A.W. When that child was about a year and a half the couple separated and the children went back and forth between the two moms. Some months later, Michelle refused to allow Leslea any contact with C.E.W.

Leslea filed for shared custody or visitation rights with C.E.W. and for child support for Z.A.W. The trial judge dismissed her case, and yesterday the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal.

The court held that Leslea lacked standing to file an action, so there was no consideration at all of the relationship between Leslea and C.E.W. for the first four years of C.E.W.'s life, let alone C.E.W.'s best interests. In the most offensive line in the opinion, the court rejected Leslea's theories by saying that "neither our statutes nor our case law remotely suggest that any third party that comes along has standing to bring an action seeking custody of children." (emphasis added). But of course Leslea is not "any third party." To C.E.W., she is a mother. To the state of Missouri, she is a stranger.

The court also dismissed Leslea's claim for child support from Michelle for Z.A.W. despite Leslea's allegations that the couple explicitly agreed to raise the children of their relationship together and shared the costs of the pregnancy and the childrearing. One judge, of the three on the panel, dissented from this part of the ruling (only!) and would have allowed Leslea the opportunity to prove that she relied on Michelle's agreement to co-parent in deciding to have a child and that therefore Michelle should bear some financial responsibility for the child.

Missouri, like many states, has a statute that says that a husband who consents to his wife's insemination with donor semen is the father of the child she conceives. It's a statute based on the original Uniform Parentage Act written in 1973. As I have written about in several other posts, the latest version of the UPA extends that status to a "man" who consents to a woman's insemination with the intent to parent, and the American Bar Association Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology extends parentage to an "individual" who consents to a woman's insemination with the intent to parent. That would cover Michelle and Leslea, and the ABA intended exactly that with its model law.

Earlier this week I posted that the Uniform Probate Code definition of a parent-child relationship for purposes of inheritance now includes an "individual" who consents to a biological mother's insemination with the intent to parent.

I continue to believe that our communities need to apply pressure to biological mothers to honor the families they have created. Friends of Michelle...where were you?


WNLeader said...

My ex, of 25 years, and I had 3 kids. First one, she adopted. Second one, is mine biologically. Third is hers biologically. I provided exclusive financial support for our family through our entire relationship. While she was the at-home mom, I did a lot at home too. When the kids were 16, 12 and 5, she left me. She took "her" son, the biological one, leaving the two older ones with me. I tried to work out reasonable visitation with our youngest for a year, while she played games with me. She barely contacted the other two. Eventually I sued her for visitation. We settled out of court. I didn't get what I wanted, but I know my two older kids respect me more for what I did. And if I hadn't sued, I would probably have no relationship by now with our youngest. He's now 9 and he's just starting to talk about living with me when he gets older. I am not encouraging this or leading to it, but I know we both love each other, and that's what counts. You are right, lesbian moms are violating everything they believe in when they attempt to break the bond of family they've worked so hard to create.

LondonGirl said...

When will people see the sense of family life? Being a parent is not necessarily about blood, genetics, sperm or eggs. We can see that where children are brought up by parents who have adopted them, used sperm or egg donation, or whatever.

If a child is brought up as a child of particular parents, whether gay or straight, those parents are the parents. Children need all the love and care they can get!

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