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Maternity contested? A strange but true child custody case

We thought our Tennessee readers might be interested a landmark parental rights case that's currently being played out in another state. What makes that case unique and potentially important is that unlike every other parentage or child custody dispute you've probably ever heard of, this one centers on a father's allegation that the woman who actually gave birth to 11-week-old twins he fathered is not really their mother.

Is this is a surrogate mother who simply changed her mind about giving children that she carried for nine months away? Yes, sort of ... and no, not really at all. Let us explain.

As it turns out, the would-be parents (who have never had a romantic relationship) mutually agreed to have children together about five years ago. According to the mother, they would then raise the children together. That was the deal.

Years later, after learning that she couldn't have children, the "non-couple" in question decided to use the man's sperm to fertilize an anonymous donor's eggs, which the woman would then carry inside her own womb. That happened and culminated in the both of a boy and a girl near the end of July. And that's when the father asserted that she was only a surrogate mother who was never intended to have any parental rights.

Who's telling the truth? We can't say, but we do know there isn't a written surrogacy agreement. That's important because in Texas (where this story takes place) and probably every other state as well -- women who give birth are typically presumed to be the mother even if not biologically related unless such an agreement exists or there is other evidence of that arrangement.

A ruling in this parental rights case is expected soon. If the woman in question is deemed to be the legal mother of the twins, it will then become a child custody case.

Source: KTRK, "Parental rights lawsuit may be landmark case in motherhood," Tom Abrahams, Sept. 21, 2012

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