Many same-sex couples in Kentucky are parents, whether through adoption, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy or other means. Unfortunately, just like heterosexual marriages, not all same-sex relationships last forever, and some find themselves in the position where they have to separate or divorce. When this happens, child custody decisions will need to be made. However, as one recent case illustrates, these decisions can present complex legal issues.
In 2006, one lesbian couple in Kentucky had a daughter. The child was conceived through a sperm donor, and one partner carried the child and gave birth to the child. However, the non-biological mother was still in a relationship with the biological mother when the child was born. The family lived together up until the child was four years old, and the non-biological mother listed the child under her health insurance. The couple ended their relationship in 2011, but the non-biological mother still maintained a relationship with her daughter, now age nine.
Following that, in 2012 the biological mother wed another man, who wanted to adopt the child. In the meantime, the non-biological mother was pursuing joint custody of her daughter. In 2014, the Kenton County Family Court determined that the non-biological mother had the right to pursue shared custody of her daughter. However, this ruling was reversed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The Kentucky Supreme Court recently unanimously ruled on this issue, stating that the non-biological mother had the right to pursue child custody. The court did note that their decision was applicable to both heterosexual parents and same-sex parents. The court stated that if the stepfather's petition to adopt the child was granted, it would create an imposition on the non-biological mother's child custody interests. The child custody case will return to family court, where a ruling will be made that is in the best interests of the child.
This case illustrates how, just as there are a myriad of ways in which an individual can become a parent in Kentucky, there are a myriad of issues that could come up pertaining to child custody. While it remains to be seen what the outcome of this case will be, it is important that the best interests of the child are upheld.