Lesbian Couple Is Correct in Custody Dispute Against Father

Los Angeles, CA–I’ve often discussed the issue of the rights of lesbian “social mothers’–women who agreed to employ a sperm donor so that they could have children with their lesbian partners, who are the biological mothers.

I do believe that children fare best when they have both a mom and a dad, and that fathers offer much to children that mothers don”t provide. However, this is not possible in lesbian couples.

When two lesbians agree to have a child together, and when the child has bonded with both his or her biological mother and his or her social mother, I believe that the relationship between the child and the social mother should be protected. I also believe that the biological mother has a responsibility to her children and to her former partner to hold up her end of the deal with the partner with whom she created the child, and that courts should hold her to her commitment.

These cases are now becoming routine. When the relationship goes sour, the lesbian biological mom does to her ex exactly what heterosexual mothers so often do to their ex-husbands–drive her out of her child”s life. To learn more, see my column Protect Gay & Lesbian Custody Rights in Divorce (Huffington Post (9/9/08).

This case is different, however, pitting a lesbian mother and her female partner against a noncustodial father. With a couple of quibbles, I side with the lesbian couple against the dad.

From Lesbian mother files appeal: Ruling keeps her partner from staying with her, children (Jackson Sun, 12/24/08):

A lesbian mother is fighting for her partner to once again be allowed to stay with her and her children overnight after the Gibson County Chancery Court restricted her from doing so, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU of Tennessee filed a brief Tuesday with the Court of Appeals in Jackson for Angel Chandler, formerly of Gibson County and who now lives in North Carolina. The brief states the court erroneously ordered the restriction, that it’s unconstitutional and that it should be reversed.

“I feel the judge’s decision was unfair,” Chandler said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It has caused a great hardship on my family.”

The release said the court issued the restriction May 15 barring Chandler’s partner of nine years from her home on nights her two children are with her.

The court imposed the restriction after Chandler and her ex-husband, Joseph Barker, appeared in court to modify their parenting plan. Chandler and Barker divorced more than 10 years ago and share custody of their 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son.

Chandler has been with her partner since 1999, and Barker remarried about five years ago, the release said. Chandler’s partner, who also moved to North Carolina, is not named in the release.

The judge ordered Chandler’s partner not to stay with the children overnight even though a court-ordered psychological evaluation of all the parties noted the partner was a positive influence on the children, the release said.

The judge said he was required to issue the order under state law, according to the release.

The brief said the restriction unconstitutionally interferes with Chandler’s ability to raise her children as she sees fit, and that it places an impossible burden on gay and lesbian parents. The brief also said unlike straight couples, who have the option of marrying, lesbians and gay men are barred from marrying in the state and would never be able to live with their partners under these restrictions.

I side with the mother–the fact that her new partner is a woman and it is a lesbian relationship should not, in and of itself, have bearing on the case. Dad apparently does not have any specific evidence that the woman would be harmful to his children, and the court-appointed psychological evaluation didn’t hint at any problems.

Now my quibble. The mother apparently moved the child from Western Tennessee (Jackson) to North Carolina. We’re not told where in North Carolina, but the move would have been a minimum of 325 miles and perhaps as long as 650 miles.

We’re not told the reason for the move, and perhaps it was a necessity. However, mothers often move the kids out of fathers’ lives out of spite or indifference to the fathers’ relationships with their children. If that’s the case, the father has a legitimate grievance–not over his ex’s choice of a woman partner, but over her decision to move the children.

Read the full article here.

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