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Appeals panel rules former same-sex partner has standing to seek visitation

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A former same-sex domestic partner of a woman who gave birth to a child has standing to seek visitation, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, reversing a trial court in an opinion begging lawmakers to speak to the rights of same-sex couples in parenting disputes.

In a 21-page order, the court ruled in A.C. v. N.J.,  20A04-1301-DR-37, that partner A.C. had standing to seek visitation under King v. S.B., 837 N.E.2d 965 (Ind. 2005). The court, however, could find no caselaw or legislative guidance to reverse trial court rulings denying A.C’s request for joint custody or to enforce the couple’s prior agreement that both parties would act as the child’s parent.

Relying on the King decision, the panel found an opening to grant standing to third-party non-biological parents to seek visitation. But that same Supreme Court ruling also vacated a COA holding that “when two women involved in a domestic relationship agree to bear and raise a child together by artificial insemination … both women are the legal parents of the resulting child.”

Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote that courts and lawmakers have been loathe to address societal changes, leaving parents and children of same-sex couples in legal limbo when relationships end.

“Since King, the status of the law surrounding a lesbian partner’s right, if any, to enjoy the rights of a legal parent of a child born to her partner under the circumstances presented here remains uncertain. ... (W)e solicited guidance from the General Assembly on this issue. In the years that have passed since then, none has been forthcoming. The existing statutory framework does not contemplate the increased use of assisted reproductive technologies. Accordingly, it provides no guidance in situations where an intended parent lacks a genetic connection to the child.”

“That deficiency is exacerbated by the growing recognition of less traditional family structures. Our system of government entrusts the General Assembly, not the courts, to fashion a framework for deciding matters as tethered to social mores and sensibilities as this subject is. We feel the vacuum of such guidance even more acutely now than we did eight years ago, when King was decided,” Friedlander wrote.

“Indeed, what began as a trickle is rapidly becoming a torrent, and the number of children whose lives are impacted by rules that have yet to be written only increases with the passage of time. They, and we, would welcome a legislative roadmap to help navigate the novel legal landscape in which we have arrived. Until that happens, however, we must do the best we can to resolve the issues that come before us.”

Declining to find that A.C. had the same rights as a biological parent to seek joint custody, Friedlander wrote that the decision in the King line of cases controls. “In the absence of a legislative directive, if full parental rights are to be recognized in a former same-sex partner under the circumstances presented here, that recognition must come from our Supreme Court,” he wrote.

 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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