US: Kansas Supreme Court makes ‘groundbreaking’ ruling in same-sex custody case
In what was described as a “groundbreaking” ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that both same-sex parents of two children, were legally recognisable as the parents of those children.
Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal had been raising two girls together, now 10 and 8 years old, and signed a co-parenting contract before separating in 2008, when a custody battle ensued.
Ms Goudschaal was the biological mother of both children, and had appealed a decision by the district court to award joint custody, saying that she should have full custody rights.
The court ruled that the contract should be held up, and the joint custody ruling, as the children were better off having two parents rather than one.
The court ruling read: “To summarize, the coparenting agreement before us cannot be construed as a prohibited sale of the children because the biological mother retains her parental duties and responsibilities. The agreement is not injurious to the public because it provides the children with the resources of two persons, rather than leaving them as the fatherless children of an artificially inseminated mother.
“No societal interest has been harmed; no mischief has been done. Like the contract in Shirk, the coparenting agreement here contains ‘no element of immorality or illegality and did not violate public policy,’ but rather ‘the contract was for the advantage and welfare of the child[ren].'”
The case, and the ruling that both women were recognised as the childrens’ parents was therefore remanded back to the district court, which has the responsibility, along with the guidance from the Supreme Court, to work out details for the couple.
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LGBT rights advocates have said that this case sets an interesting precedent, as the court did not reference equal marriage, the lack thereof, or the fact that the former couple are both of the same sex.
Civil rights advocates said that the case is not only significant for same-sex couples with children, but also for families where non-biological parents are raising children.
Doug Bonney of the America Civil Liberties Union in Kansas said the ruling was “groundbreaking.”
“The court rightly found that the co-parenting agreement was not only legal, but that it served the best interest of the children,” he said.
“The Kansas Supreme Court recognized that children with same-sex parents have the same need for stability and protection as children in any other family,” said Cathy Sakimura, the Family Law Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We are grateful to the court for this thoughtful decision protecting the best interests of children in all families.”
Also in Kansas, back in January, a Separated lesbian couple were both summoned to testify on behalf of a sperm donor, with whom they had made a written agreement, but who was ordered to pay child support after they split up.