After the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize marriage equality, the LGBTQ community received a wealth of rights it was previously denied. However, questions still remain about the parental rights of unmarried same sex couples who raise children together.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, in Michigan, same-sex partners could not jointly adopt children, and for couples who had children through in vitro fertilization, the non-biological parent had no parental rights. In a June 2016 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied parental rights to a non-biological, lesbian mother who separated from her partner without marriage. Therefore, when unmarried same-sex couples separate, one parent may be left without any parental rights to a child that he or she may have helped raise.
Other states have taken different positions on this issue. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently granted parental rights to same-sex parents who never married and who have no biological connection to the children they helped raise. The Massachusetts court focused more on upbringing of the children rather than biological ties.
Much like the issue of marriage equality, federal intervention from the United States Supreme Court might be needed to resolve these issues among the states. Until then, unmarried, same-sex couples should consult an experienced Family Law Attorney to try and avoid any difficult situations involving their children.
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