The number of states that disregard a child's second mother grows. I don't know whether to scream or cry. I do know that if judges cannot see the family in front of their eyes then the answer lies in changing state statutes to recognize two parents of a child born through donor insemination.
Here is the latest disaster, which adds Missouri to the hall of shame.
Leslea and Michelle White (Michelle changed her surname to Leslea's...a heterosexual custom I wish same-sex couples would discard...but I digress) had been together for about 4 years when Michelle gave birth to one child, C.E.W. Two and a half years later, using the same anonymous semen donor, Leslea gave birth to their second child, Z.A.W. When that child was about a year and a half the couple separated and the children went back and forth between the two moms. Some months later, Michelle refused to allow Leslea any contact with C.E.W.
Leslea filed for shared custody or visitation rights with C.E.W. and for child support for Z.A.W. The trial judge dismissed her case, and yesterday the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal.
The court held that Leslea lacked standing to file an action, so there was no consideration at all of the relationship between Leslea and C.E.W. for the first four years of C.E.W.'s life, let alone C.E.W.'s best interests. In the most offensive line in the opinion, the court rejected Leslea's theories by saying that "neither our statutes nor our case law remotely suggest that any third party that comes along has standing to bring an action seeking custody of children." (emphasis added). But of course Leslea is not "any third party." To C.E.W., she is a mother. To the state of Missouri, she is a stranger.
The court also dismissed Leslea's claim for child support from Michelle for Z.A.W. despite Leslea's allegations that the couple explicitly agreed to raise the children of their relationship together and shared the costs of the pregnancy and the childrearing. One judge, of the three on the panel, dissented from this part of the ruling (only!) and would have allowed Leslea the opportunity to prove that she relied on Michelle's agreement to co-parent in deciding to have a child and that therefore Michelle should bear some financial responsibility for the child.
Missouri, like many states, has a statute that says that a husband who consents to his wife's insemination with donor semen is the father of the child she conceives. It's a statute based on the original Uniform Parentage Act written in 1973. As I have written about in several other posts, the latest version of the UPA extends that status to a "man" who consents to a woman's insemination with the intent to parent, and the American Bar Association Model Act Governing Assisted Reproductive Technology extends parentage to an "individual" who consents to a woman's insemination with the intent to parent. That would cover Michelle and Leslea, and the ABA intended exactly that with its model law.
Earlier this week I posted that the Uniform Probate Code definition of a parent-child relationship for purposes of inheritance now includes an "individual" who consents to a biological mother's insemination with the intent to parent.
I continue to believe that our communities need to apply pressure to biological mothers to honor the families they have created. Friends of Michelle...where were you?
cross-posted at Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage