Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Then again the Arkansas nonbio mom ruling falls short...

I was pretty excited when I wrote last week about Bethany v. Jones, the Arkansas case that recognized the right of a nonbio mom to continued visitation rights with the child she raised. The court relied on the doctrine of in loco parentis, which means that Emily Jones functioned as a parent to the child she raised with her ex-partner.

Then I thought about it a bit more and realized I became too excited too soon. Jones is the child's parent. She planned for the child, raised the child as a stay-at-home mother for three years, and the child called her "mommy." A parent has an equal right to custody and is not relegated to a second class status. The court compared Jones to a stepparent, but she isn't a stepparent. A stepparent does not plan for a child to be born. A child does not bear the last name of a stepparent from birth, yet the child in this case had the last name of Jones. Parentage also protects a child in other ways, such as the right to survivors benefits. This child doesn't get that.

In DC, Jones would have been the child's parent. In California, Jones would have been the child's parent. That the Arkansas case did not turn out as badly as it might have shouldn't blind us to the fact that it falls short of fully recognizing this child's family.

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