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The Unusual Suspects: Visitation Decision Breaks Ground (p. 2)

A couple of posts ago, we were talking about a court decision regarding a child visitation agreement. The parents are a lesbian couple who live in a state that neither recognizes civil unions nor allows same-sex couples to adopt. In Illinois, the outcome would be different -- especially after June 1, when the civil union law takes effect. The case breaks ground in the couple's home state, though, so it merits discussion here.

M, the birth mother, and P, her partner who was not biologically related to the child, split up in 2008, initially agreeing to shared custody. The arrangement fell apart, and M denied P access to their daughter. The lower court found for P, who had been the primary caregiver and whose last name had been given to the daughter.

On appeal, M argued that the lower court had erred. P was not a parent, she said, but more like a grandparent -- and grandparents have no visitation rights.

The lower court judge had said that P was acting "in loco parentis." The legal term essentially means that P took on some or all of the responsibilities of a parent to the little girl, even if there was no formal adoption.

The Supreme Court agreed. Her relationship with the child was more similar to that of a step-parent than of a grandparent. In Arkansas, where both mothers and the child live, a step-parent has legal standing and may be granted visitation rights.

Again, this is an unusual finding for a state that has a history of slow (or no) progress on same-sex and transgender issues. The Arkansas Constitution, in fact, contains language that defines marriage as being the union of one man and one woman. The amendment was adopted in 2004.

Source: AOL Parent Dish, "Lesbian Co-Mother Awarded Visitation by Arkansas Supreme Court," Honey Berk, 02/24/11

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