Ohio Supreme Court’s Lesbian Child Custody Ruling Ignores Importance of Social Mom’s Bond with Her Child

Fathers and Families today released the press release below concerning the new Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the lesbian child custody case pitting biological mother Kelly Mullen against lesbian social mother Michele Hobbs. F & F has long-defended Hobbs and other lesbian social mothers–to learn more, see the Holstein/Sacks column With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce: The Rise of Lesbian Custody Battles (10/15/09) and our post High-Profile Ohio Lesbian Custody Battle Again Highlights Injustices Faced by Noncustodial Parents.

Ohio Supreme Court”s Lesbian Child Custody Ruling Ignores Importance of Social Mom”s Bond with Her Child


The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against a lesbian in her desire to co-parent the child she helped raise from birth. Biological mother Kelly Mullen and “social mom’ Michele Hobbs agreed to raise a child together, sought out a sperm donor, and shared the parenting from the birth of their now 5-year-old daughter until their breakup. Since the breakup, Mullen has tried to strip Hobbs of shared custody rights to her daughter and to drive her out of her daughter”s life, even though Hobbs is a fit parent who enjoys a loving relationship with her daughter. While both sides in the case and most of the media see it as a gay rights case, in reality it is a child custody case whose dynamics are very common. Every day, divorcing heterosexual parents try to convince the courts to allow them to drive the other parent, usually the dad, out of the child”s life rather than accepting shared parenting. Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Board Chairman of the national family court reform organization Fathers and Families, explains:

“Once a child identifies two adults as her parents, she is deeply hurt by the sudden, court-ordered absence of one of the parents. Having every other weekend together is not enough time to offset their profound sense of loss. Whether it is a heterosexual parent or a biological mother in a lesbian relationship, the effect on the child is the same, regardless of what one may think about gay marriage.

“Some of the biological lesbian mothers are so determined to drive the social mothers out of their children’s lives that they even invoke laws which limit gays’ parental rights as a way to win their cases.’

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer issued a separate dissenting opinion, writing that not “until the pair separated after Lucy’s second birthday did Mullen revoke the statement, ‘I consider Michele Hobbs as my child’s co-parent in every way.’ Any reliance on what Mullen did after she separated from Hobbs was error.” Holstein emphasizes:

“Fathers and Families has no position on gay marriage. But we do have a position on gay ‘divorce.” It is enormously damaging to children to drive a parent out. The saddest part is that children usually blame themselves, asking, ‘What did I do to make mom [dad] not want to be with me anymore?” Children need shared parenting, whether they have heterosexual or same-sex parents.’

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