Any child custody battle between divorced parents can be heart-wrenching. However, what if you helped your spouse raise a child whom you loved as your own and then found out that you can no longer see that child after you divorce?
People in same-sex marriages can face that dilemma if a child was born before the couple wed. It happened to a Maryland woman. After being denied visitation rights by a Washington County Circuit judge, she took her case to the Court of Special Appeals. Late last month, that court ruled against her as well.
The 5-year-old boy was born six months before the couple married. He was just 17 months old when they divorced. When the boy's biological mother refused to let her former spouse see the boy, the woman sued for visitation rights. She argued in court that under the law she was in effect the boy's father and had paternity rights.
The court disagreed, noting that because the child was born before the couple was married, the plaintiff was legally considered a "third party" rather than a parent. The only way she might be able to have any rights regarding him would be if there were some sort of exceptional circumstances, such as if she could show that the boy's biological mother was unfit.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Maryland since 2013. However, in its ruling, the appellate court noted that Maryland still lacks laws regarding divorces among same-sex couples.
Perhaps with same-sex marriage now legal across the country, more attention will be given to divorce and child custody issues involving same-sex couples. However, an experienced Maryland family law attorney can provide guidance on these issues and work to protect the interests of people during divorce and custody proceedings.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel News, "Court: No visitation rights for woman after same-sex divorce," Sep. 02, 2015