Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nonbio mom, Sondra Shineovich, successful on remand from Oregon Court of Appeals

In 2009, I wrote extensively about the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling in Shineovich v. Kemp. The court held that the consent of a biological mother's same-sex partner to her insemination, with the intent to parent the resulting child, made the nonbio mom a legal parent. The court reviewed the state's statute making a husband the parent of a child born to his wife using donor insemination to which he had consented. Then the court found it unconstitutional to deny that status to a woman's same-sex partner.

The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court for a determination of the status of the nonbio mom, Sondra Shineovich. The trial court heard testimony over four dates last November and December and admitted 110 exhibits into evidence. Judge Katherine Tennyson of the Multnomah County Circuit Court made written factual findings, in a letter to counsel dated March 31, 2011, that Sondra and her partner, Sarah Kemp, had a "committed partnership which intended, in addition to financial interdependence, to produce and raise children together." The judge further found that

It is also overwhelming [sic] apparent from all credible evidence on this record, that the parties worked together to achieve the goal of conceiving and raising children. There is no question that Shineovich consented to this process. She contributed with her actions, money and emotions. This goal was a topic of discussion between Shineovich and Kemp and was a joint effort between them. These children were an integral part of their partnership.

Although Kemp told the court that the decision to have the children was "'my process; my children'", the court found that view "not supported by the credible evidence in this case." The evidence included numerous witnesses, including Kemp's aunt, and many "cards, letter, video and documents created contemporaneously with events" that contradicted Kemp's testimony at the trial as to her "memory" of past events. The court also found that the older child, Parker, "viewed Shineovich as his parent in every sense of the word." Kemp was pregnant with the younger child when she moved out of the family home in 2006.

The court ordered the parties to schedule a conference to set a hearing date to determine the issues of custody and parenting time.

Shineovich was represented at trial by Owens, Sneller, Pinzelik and Wood, P.C., who issued a press statement about the ruling.


Unknown said...

Awesome decision. I am a bio-mom, and I know, as Sarah knows deep in her heart, that I needed my partner every step of the way through the AI process, the food cravings, sore ankles, pain of childbirth, and 2am feedings. They commit their hearts to those kids as much as we do, if not always to us, and our kids deserve to love and know both parents.

cynthia said...

non bio moms. .you are not alone..

Nacrina said...

Sondra Shineovich has gone through so much with trying to attain rights to her two children. It is truly unfortunate that she has had to put so much financial, emotional and mental resources into simply having what so many take for granted. The judge who ruled on this case saw through the games and manipulations presented by the biological mother, who at one time wanted nothing more than a family with Sondra. When a relationship doesn't work out, the parents should still do everything possible to co-parent. Sondra, thank you for being a pioneer for your children, and for so many same-sex parents in Oregon. Your case has extended the insemination laws in Oregon to include same sex parents. Some other non-biological mother will never have to go through what you have because of all of your dedication and commitment.

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