A same-sex couple from Knox County is disputing whether a woman in a same-sex marriage, who is not the biological parent of the child, should receive parental rights in child custody proceedings. As it stands, the non-biological mother in this case has been denied parental rights as the court has ruled that she is the equivalent of a step-parent.
The couple married in 2014 in Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage was legal at the time, and then they decided to become parents. One of the women gave birth to a child through artificial insemination received from an anonymous sperm donor. The child was born in January 2015, but the non-biological mother did not actually adopt the child — she didn’t think she had to. She thought, as a legally married person, that she would receive full parental rights automatically, and she never thought that she and her spouse would divorce.
Even though same-sex marriage is now recognized throughout the United States by law, including in Tennessee, the law in Tennessee is not clear on how non-biological parents in same-sex unions should be treated during child custody disputes. In this instance, the Tennessee judge ruled against the woman trying to establish her parental rights, but that does not mean that the case is anywhere close to over. This may be able to successfully appeal the decision in a higher court.
The issue of child custody in same-sex marriages in Tennessee appears to be a subject of serious legal debate. As such, all same-sex parents who share children together may wish to speak with a family law attorney to determine whether they have done everything necessary to fully secure their parental rights.
Source: wbir.com, “Same-sex divorce, custody battle could set precedent in TN,” Becca Habegger, accessed Aug. 19, 2016