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Same-sex child custody issues complicated by donor eggs

It is often a difficult and emotional decision for a couple to end a relationship. The decision is further complicated for couples who also have to come to a child custody agreement. While some parents are able to easily and amicably come to an agreement about co-parenting, others need court intervention. As more and more same-sex couples have children, some of the issues involving custody get complicated. A recent decision by one state's Supreme Court could, however, prove instructive for courts in Massachusetts and across the country.

In 2008, a female same-sex couple had a baby together. One woman, the biological mother, donated an egg that was then fertilized and implanted in the second partner, the birth mother. The birth mother was listed as the child's mother on the birth certificate. Unfortunately, the relationship disintegrated a year later.

A judge ruled that the birth mother was only a surrogate and said she was entitled to visitation, but had no legal or custody rights to the child. The state Supreme Court recently disagreed, however. It found that the woman was more than a surrogate and an agreement signed before the birth of the child had been wrongfully ignored in the original judge's decision.

Additionally, the judges argued that every child should have the opportunity of being raised by two loving parents regardless of the sex of the parents. As a result, the birth mother can now seek child custody and other parental rights. As most parents in Massachusetts would agree, it is important to consider the best interests of the child during any child custody determinations. While the courts are seeing unique cases everyday as a result of medical advancements in reproduction and fertility, this ruling may help guide the decisions of future cases.

Source: Reno Gazette-Journal, Sandra Chereb, Oct. 4, 2013

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