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Massachusetts upholds domestic partner's legal rights as parent

Massachusetts continues to pave the way for the rights of same-sex domestic partners. In a new decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, a California domestic partnership was held to be equivalent to a marriage in Massachusetts. Worcester family law will undoubtedly be affected as the court also held that children born after the domestic partnership was entered into are the legal children of both parents.

The case involved two women who registered a declaration of domestic partnership while living in California. Under California law, parties to a domestic partnership have the same rights as a married couple. One of the women later became pregnant using a sperm donor, and the couple moved to Massachusetts. Her partner later got pregnant with a second child using the same sperm donor. Prior to the birth of their second child, their relationship ended.

A child custody and visitation dispute followed as the partner who had given birth to their first daughter tried to cut off contact between the child and her former partner. She argued that her former partner had no parental rights even though her former partner had been the primary caregiver of the daughter while they were living together. Her argument centered on the fact that the partners had not been married and her former partner did not adopt the child.

The Massachusetts high court found that both partners were the legal parents of both the children. Under Massachusetts state law, children born during a marriage are presumed to be the children of both parents. In addition, a child born from artificial insemination during a marriage with consent of the other spouse is the legal child of both spouses. The court reasoned that under California law, a same-sex domestic partnership has nearly the same rights as a married couple. Therefore, the court found the domestic partnership was the equivalent of a marriage.

The woman who had originally refused to allow her former partner to have contact with her daughter ended up losing on all fronts. The former partner was given physical custody of the daughter, and the court also ordered that she be paid child support for the second child she conceived.

Source: Examiner.com, "Massachusetts extends parental rights to domestic partner," Robin Lynch Nardone, Sept. 30, 2012

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