Many of the laws in Massachusetts were written long ago. As a result, the state, and many others across the country, are trying to catch up with medical advances and changing social narratives. For example, many laws governing child custody were written before it was common for same-sex couples to adopt or have children together. For example, the Supreme Court of one state has recently ruled in favor of the biological mother of a child who donated an egg to her same-sex partner.
According to reports, one woman in a committed relationship donated an egg which was then implanted in her partner. Unfortunately, the couple split two years after the child was born. The birth mother claimed that the biological mother did not have a claim to child custody because of a state law banning sperm or egg donors from seeking custody. After six years of being unable to see her daughter, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the biological mother, stating that both mothers should have parental rights.
The court has stated that their ruling does not strike down the state law, nor will it benefit actual sperm or egg donors. However, they ruled that due to joint counseling prior to the birth of the child, birth announcements and using a hyphenated last name for the child, it was never the intent that the biological mother would act only as a donor. It was clear, they said, that the intent was for both mothers to parent the child together. The court did state, however, that the outcome could have been different if the birth mother had used her own egg instead of a donation from her partner.
The hope for some advocates is that rulings such as this will encourage courts to look more at the intent to co-parent before a child is born when determining child custody, as opposed to basing rulings based on a biological relationship or lack thereof. As more and more cases involving same-sex couples with complex arrangements are appearing in court, it is clear that Massachusetts laws will have to take into account a family dynamic that is beyond the traditional ideal. In all cases, it is important for each side to consider the best interest of a child when determining child custody arrangements.
Source: ABC News, Fla. Supreme Court Settles Lesbian Custody Battle, Brendan Farrington, Nov. 7, 2013