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Domestic partner in Massachusetts wins custody of child

Same-sex couples often run into legal issues if they separate or divorce. If there are children involved, the legal issues can be even more complicated. A recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that same-sex couples in a domestic partnership have the same rights during a divorce or separation as married couples.

A couple who entered into a domestic partnership in California was the subject of the court case. Using donor sperm, one woman became pregnant and the couple then moved to Massachusetts. A little over a year later the other mother became pregnant with the same donor's sperm, but the couple separated before she gave birth.

The first mother claimed custody of the daughter, since she was biologically related to her and her former partner had not legally adopted the child. This mother did not care to have a relationship with the second child. The second mother, though, wanted custody of the first daughter as well. During the couple's relationship she was the primary caregiver for their daughter.

The Massachusetts court ruled that since a domestic partnership has nearly all the same rights as a legal marriage in California, both women are legal parents of both children in Massachusetts. As a result, both mothers have custody of their first daughter and the first mother must pay child support for the second daughter whom she does not want a relationship with.

This ruling is very significant for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. This case demonstrates that couples who encounter legal questions or difficulties during a separation or divorce may benefit from looking into the situation further.

Source: Examiner, "Massachusetts extends parental rights to domestic partner," Robin Lynch Nardone, Sept. 30, 2012

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