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Court rules in favor of adoptive parent in same-sex custody case

A family court has awarded custody to a child's adoptive mother in favor of her biological mother. The child custody case is believed to be among the first involving same-sex couples on the east coast and could potentially have repercussions on similar disputes in Maryland and other states.

The couple at the center of the case were involved in a domestic partnership from 2004 to 2010, but never married. However, one of the women adopted the other's biological daughter, now 6-years-old, and decided to pursue custody of the girl when the couple separated. The adoptive mother's friend, who provided the sperm donation that helped conceive the child, reportedly sided with the biological mother after the couple's separation. The judge claimed he and the biological mother were "united" in their attempt to discredit the other woman's status as a parent.

While biological parents are typically awarded custody, the law typically requires family court judges to consider a child's best interests as the primary fact in a custody decision. The judge in this cases argued that the adoptive mother was "the more responsible parent looking out for the child's best interests, not her own interests." He added that the other woman's biological relation to the girl did not entitle her to "An automatic priority" in a custody decision. However, the biological mother contended that the judge "ignored the evidence" and handed down an illegal and misinformed ruling. She plans to appeal the decision.

The adoptive mother's attorneys lauded the decision for acknowledging the equal roles of adoptive and biological parents. One of the lawyers explained that the court established that legally recognized parents are "on equal footing" regardless of whether they are biologically related to their children.

Source: American Bar Association Journal, "Adoptive Mom, a Lawyer, Is 'More Responsible' Parent, Gets Custody of Girl, 6, Instead of Bio-Mom Ex," Martha Neil, Oct. 2, 2012

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