It is common for a stepparent to wish to adopt his or her stepchild. The child’s noncustodial biological parent generally has the right to contest the adoption, which sometimes occurs. But a new case before the Kentucky Supreme Court may be virtually without precedent in state law.
On one side of the case is the biological mother of a 9-year-old girl. On the other side are the biological mother’s ex-partner and her husband, who wishes to adopt the girl, according to the Associated Press. That would terminate the biological mother’s parental rights.
At issue is what defines a legal “parent” in Kentucky. Traditionally, the wishes of an adult who is not biologically or adoptively the parent of a child give way to someone is who the child’s parent. But some states have recognized “de facto parents.” This refers to a person who has lived with the child for a significant period of time, formed a “bonded and dependent relationship” and has “accepted full and permanent responsibilities” of parenthood without payment in return, as one out-of-state ruling put it.
The two women in this case were in a committed relationship when the biological mother became pregnant via sperm donation in 2006. It appears they raised the girl together until they broke up in 2011. The nonbiological mother later married the man, and says she had a shared child custody arrangement with the biological mother.
Though she is not the girl’s biological mother, the girl has her last name and calls her “Mommy,” the woman says. The woman is listed as a parent on key documents like the girl’s medical and school forms.
However, the biological mother says she never intended to relinquish her sole custody rights to her ex. She says the girl calls her ex “no-me” -- short for “no” and “Mommy.”
As the definition of marriage and family changes in the U.S., the law may have to change to catch up. A parent in custody or adoption disputes will need an attorney who is well-versed in the law to represent them.