Saturday, July 10, 2010

Michigan Court of Appeals blocks nonbio mom's efforts (updated)

Just a few months ago, I wrote about the Michigan trial court ruling in favor of nonbio mom Renee Harmon's efforts to maintain a relationship with her three children. Well, this week the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed that trial judge in a "peremptory order," without even receiving briefs on the issue from the lawyers. The Court ruled that only a biological parent, adoptive parent, or husband of a biological mother can file for custody under Michigan law.

The order cites as support a case in which a man who believed himself to be and held himself out as the father of two children, but was not married to the children's mother, was denied the ability to assert paternity under an "equitable parent" theory. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the doctrine of "equitable parent" would apply within marriage only. By extension, therefore, the doctrine could not apply to Renee Harmon.

We've seen states in which caselaw acknowledging nonmarital, nonbiological fathers is extended to nonbiological mothers. The California case law that establishes parentage for nonbio moms, for example, built on a previous case establishing the parentage of a nonbiological, but nonmarital, father who received a child into his home and held the child out as his own. But Michigan makes marriage the dividing line, even though this cannot make any difference to a child who knows someone as a parent all his/her life. It's wrong for a child with a nonbiological father, and equally wrong for Renee Harmon's children.

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