VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

What is the definition of parentage?

The paradigm shift that resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court granting same-sex couples the right to marry is forcing many states to fill in their own legal blanks. While the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling two years ago settled a larger issue, smaller matters remain open to interpretation while opening the floodgates of litigation.

States were left to find a way to interpret their laws in a gender-neutral way when it comes to marriage, divorce, child custody, taxes and property ownership. A case before the Arizona Supreme Court is one of many throughout the nation that is starting the discussions sprinkled with a few debates.

McLaughlin vs. McLaughlin

Suzan and Kimberly McLaughlin had a child via an anonymous sperm donor. The couple agreed to co-parent and share custody if the marriage ended in divorce before Suzan could legally adopt her son.

While Kimberly was the biological mother, Suzan stayed home with the baby after he was born. In 2013, Kimberly filed for divorce, claiming that Suzan had no parental rights because she lacked a biological link. She based her case on Arizona law written before the legalization of same-sex marriage that allows married men, a gender-specific term, to establish parental rights.

The Nation Waits For A Ruling

Nationwide, many legal challenges involve states continuing to refuse to put both spouses on a birth certificate or allow them the opportunity to jointly adopt a child. However, the case in Arizona involves parental rights, specifically whether statutes determine parentage through a marriage certificate or biology.

The specific statute is one of hundreds of statutes containing the language of “husband and wife” and defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

With a Republican-controlled state Legislature uninterested in making changes, the ball is in the court of the courts. Regardless of their ruling, the aftermath will be wide-ranging and go far beyond the rights of same-sex couples.

If you are involved in child custody dispute, contact VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP, at 606-618-0698.

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