Thursday, July 1, 2010
From the Chicago Tribune:
A woman who raised two adopted children for years in a same-sex relationship is not considered their parent under Wisconsin law, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The court ruled against a woman who was seeking legal guardianship of two children for whom she had been a stay-at-home mother. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled that only the woman's former partner is their parent since the adoptions were done under the partner's name.
The woman, identified in court records only as Wendy because of the confidentiality surrounding guardianship proceedings, had been in a domestic relationship for 7 years before the couple decided to adopt a child from Guatemala in 2002. They adopted a second child from there in 2004.
In an interview, Wendy said she would consider asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
"For someone like me that was in a relationship for 12 years and a stay at home mom for 7, I shouldn't have to fight to parent my kids who I've been parenting 24-7," she said. "For me to read in the court documents that I'm not a parent is disturbing and troubling."
Same-sex couples do not have adoption rights in Wisconsin, meaning that only one of them can be considered the legal parent. In this case, Wendy's partner, identified in court records as Liz, was named the legal parent so the children could be added to her health care plan.
Wendy agreed to stop working and stay at home to look after the kids while Liz, an attorney, was the family's breadwinner. The couple split up in 2008, and agreed to equally share custody of the children.
However, Wendy wanted legal recognition of her rights to the children, and she petitioned a court to be named a legal guardian. Wendy said she worries that she could not visit her children in the hospital without Liz's permission in the event of an accident, or wouldn't automatically get custody in the event of Liz's death.
Without legal recognition, she said she could also have problems with daily issues such as taking them to the doctor or out of school for a vacation.
Liz initially agreed to the guardianship, but then objected to the petition. A Dane County judge sided with Liz then Wendy appealed.
The appeals court ruled that "parent" is defined under Wisconsin law as someone who is either a biological or an adoptive parent, and Wendy is neither.
The court also rejected her argument that she should be granted guardianship because the children would be harmed by "depriving them of one of the two persons who has raised them from infancy."