Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but the scope of family law is broader than marriage. Take the recent example of a same-sex couple that got married in a neighboring state and had a child by artificial insemination before the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision. Since the couple’s home state did not yet recognize same-sex marriage as legal, only the name of the spouse who gave birth to the child was listed on the birth certificate.
Several months ago, the couple filed for divorce. Unfortunately, state law regarding artificial insemination contemplates only a husband and mother. Consequently, the state court determined that only the parent listed on the birth certificate had parental rights toward the child.
Given the Supreme Court’s decision, the statutory language of the state’s artificial insemination law might seem outdated. However, the Supreme Court’s decision does not include language regarding the parental rights of an unmarried same-sex couple who did not jointly and legally adopt their child. Consequently, the court determined the artificial insemination statute to be the governing law.
Fortunately, the court allowed the divorce action to be put on hold pending an appeal of the parental rights issue. Visitation is also possible for the other parent, analogous to the interest of a stepparent or grandparent. However, only the individual who has legal custody can make significant decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as educational or medical needs.
Our law firm has experience helping unmarried parents, same-sex couples and nontraditional families wade through difficult legal issues such as these. Check out our firm’s divorce and family law website to learn more.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, “Parenting rights in same-sex divorces headed to a Tennessee appellate court,” Jamie Satterfield, June 24, 2016