Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gay Parent Denied Equal Rights by Wisconsin Court of Appeals

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."

Read the full news story here and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals' opinion here.


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This is such a tragedy the media should jump on this to ascent the awareness of others. THIS IS NOT RIGHT< NOT FAMILY VALUES...WHEN will society and awareness learn that the RIGHTNESS for and UNITED partners to co-raise a child and family will not have the best interests of the child at heart. The Natural Rightness of this should be self evident. The children in situations like this have no voice, or "papers" or "contact orders" because THEY don't need them, they understand better than the adult and those wielding authority to ACT CIVILLY. These children need each parent in a unique way and the fabric of emotion being human has this Natural Law which should protect the child. Imagine how barbaric this will be perceived as in 20 years or less. This will be reflected on as "unaware of the modern family and its self evident needs". I'm going through similar and have had to self deny access for the best interest of my child, who I SHOULD BY LAW STILL BE THE CUSTODIAL, SOLE GUARDIAN, FATHER AND PARENT. I'm the social dad, the non biological one who is guiding legislation in Canada. CAll for suggestions 4036801373 and maybe we can brainstorm for us both. I'm self representing and going to reapply for the guardianship which was illegally due executed and fabricated using my being gay and proud of it attitude used as a weapon by the very lawyer that gave our family the advice for the creation of our daughter through surrogacy.

I've got no options at this point which will help my child and thanks to the defendants its chronically by their biased cohort paid by dirty oil money.

Posted by: dh | Jul 26, 2010 6:50:33 PM

You are right my friend. This is an injustice and should not happen in the United States of America or anywhere in the world. I believe that it is up to us to stop asking for the media to do something and create our own media. Media that speaks to the ideals and beliefs that we have. Media is one of the most powerful and underutilized tools of people like us and that is why I am asking for your help in creating media that says that all loving and caring families are valid and should be celebrated. I hope you will help me create that media.

Posted by: Global Dad | Nov 23, 2010 10:19:08 PM

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