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King and King- The Consequences of Failing to Recognize Same Sex Families

King and King- The Consequences of Failing to Recognize Same Sex Families

I have never blogged about a specific case, however, (with permission of the clients and changed names) I’m going to share the story of King and King and why the Arizona legislature needs to do something to recognize and address issues of same sex families.

Here is a synopsis of the facts: Five years ago, our client Laura, met and fell in love with Carrie. After some time, the two decided to have a child together. They asked a friend to donate sperm and decided that Carrie would be the one to carry and birth the child. Laura had already adopted children and conceived via artificial insemination so she was excited to experience this end of parenthood.

After months of attempts and one miscarriage they managed to conceive. They attended doctor’s appointments, birthing classes and Laura cut the cord when baby Alexander was born. The two raised the child together as momma Laura and momma Carrie for 18 months. Carrie changed her last name to King and the couple entered into a co-parenting agreement memorializing their intent to have equal parenting rights and responsibilities. They also engaged in a public Native American commitment ceremony in front of family and friends. However, this story does not have a happy ending.

When Alexander was about 18 months old, Carrie’s family of origin came and packed her and baby Alexander up. They moved Carrie and Alexander out of the home and took them to a de-programming camp for reformed lesbians. That was the last time that Laura spoke to Carrie and saw Alexander.

Laura filed in the Superior Court to enforce her parenting rights, only to find she had no legal rights at all.  She couldn’t even enforce the contract the two women had entered into.

Her only hope was to file for in loco parentis visitation in in Maricopa County Superior Court. Since she had “stood in the shoes” of a parent, she qualified as a person who could ask for visitation. The judge could then determine whether or not visits with Alexander and Laura would be in Alexander’s best interest.

Carrie, funded by her family, opposed the petition for visitation. She immediately asked for a change of venue, telling the Court she now lived in Navajo County with her Mother. Laura contested the change of venue, which would have meant traveling five hours to Court hearings, and would have made her award of visits less likely. No Judge would want to have a child travel five hours for visits with a non-parent.

Laura was sure that Carrie still lived and worked in Maricopa County. Five months later, there was a hearing on whether or not to change venue. Laura lost; venue was changed to Navajo County.

Undeterred, Laura continued. Carrie’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact that Laura hadn’t served “both parents” with her petition for visitation. Then, there was a court battle on whether there was a legal father, whether he was entitled to be served, and whether the petition should be dismissed. The Court did not dismiss the Petition; Laura could still ask for visitation. However, by this point, it has been more than a year since Laura saw Alexander- making it more and more difficult to argue that visits with Laura are in his best interest.

To date we still do not know if Carrie will be awarded time with Alexander, or how much time she will be awarded. In another legal twist, there were two donors in the month that Carrie got pregnant.

What follows has been an ongoing legal battle with two moms, two dads and no end in sight. This series will examine the issues legally and personally from both moms’ and both dads’ positions and it should highlight the overall purpose of the blog.

The Arizona legislature objects to allowing same sex couples to adopt. On the basis of public policy and in support of marriage, they want children raised with one mom and one dad. In reality, same sex couples are creating families every day and the consequence of ignoring those families creates uncertainty, relationship chaos, and legal instability.

We are currently awaiting a ruling on Laura’s visitation, Carrie has moved back to Maricopa County, and, another potential father has come forward.

Part 2 – Siblings Left Behind

The Consequences of Failing to Recognize Same Sex Couples in Family Law- Part Two- Siblings left behind.

If you are new to the series click here for Part One.

Shortly after Carrie and Laura confirmed the pregnancy, Laura got a phone call from Child Protective Services. They had a newborn baby who tested positive for methamphetamine.

The baby’s Father, one of Laura’s employees, told the caseworker that Laura should take care of the baby. Child Protective Services visited the home of Laura and Carrie, did a “home study,” and approved Laura as the best placement for the child.

Laura and Carrie talked; they were not sure whether to accept this brand new infant who was going through drug withdrawals. In nine months, if everything went well, they would have another newborn in their house. Unsure if Carrie would be able to carry their baby to term, given her history of miscarriages, they decided this may be their only chance for having a baby together. They accepted baby Samantha and she was dropped off with a package of diapers and a bottle.

Together Laura and Carrie took care of baby Samantha. They were up all night rocking, singing and doing whatever they could to comfort the drug-addicted baby. Eventually, the withdrawals passed and Laura adopted baby Samantha. Meanwhile, Carrie’s pregnancy progressed to term and baby Alexander was born.

Now, the women had two babies; a newborn and nine-month-old Samantha. The nursery had two cribs, the kitchen had two high chairs, and the stroller was a double.

The babies grew up together and were inseparable. When it came time for Samantha to move to the “two’s” room at day care, Alexander cried and stared into the next room. The day care eventually relented and put the two together.

After Carrie’s parents came and moved her out of Laura’s house, Samantha cried for her brother every day.

She placed a stuffed animal in his car seat and he became her imaginary friend. She had not only lost one of her mothers, she had lost her brother. The same is true for baby Alexander and there is nothing that Laura can do to change that.

After Alexander was born, the women went to see an adoption attorney to finalize Samantha’s adoption with Laura as her mother. They asked the adoption attorney how they could be sure that if something happened to one of them, the other would be designated the primary parent for Alexander and Samantha. They executed a con-joint parenting agreement.

It gave Laura the right to make health care, educational, and all the day to day decisions for the care and custody of Alexander.

However, this power of attorney has since been revoked, and Carrie as the sole custodial parent has cut off all contact between Laura, Samantha and Alexander.

Part 3 – Judges Ruling

King Saga- Part III- Judges Ruling

If you are new to the series click here for Part One.

On July 3, 2013, 55 days after a hearing to determine whether or not to give Laura visitation rights to her son, the Judge issued his ruling. As an aside, Judge’s have 60 maximum days to enter an order, orders are typically received within two weeks. His one-page Order denied Laura any and all rights to see Alexander.

The Order stated the two women lived together “for a relatively short period of time from his birth until the relationship ended.” (Four Years).  It went on to quote Carrie saying that Laura had “many women” coming and going. Steve, Laura’s cousin, stated he had known Laura for 23 years and did not support Alexander seeing her.

The Order was just over one page, filled with errors, and eventually ruled that “custody” would be awarded to the parents. Laura had not asked for “custody.” She requested third party visitation. We, her attorneys, have asked for a new trial based on the legal errors we see in the Order. Our motion is awaiting a ruling from the Judge same Judge who ruled against her. Her only legal hope after this is an appeal.

Both Carrie and Steve chose to have a child with Laura. Their intent was for Laura to raise Alexander as she did for the first 18 months of his life. To now claim this is somehow not in Alexander’s interest is hypocritical, ironic, and just plain wrong. Where is the justice for Alex?

In the meantime, the other potential father has filed to request a paternity test and challenge the legal paternity that may or may not have been established. Carrie’s attorney has refused to accept service on her behalf. She has failed to update her address with the court and a skip trace still has not revealed her current address. We are waiting an order for DNA testing. It may be Laura’s only hope to see her son.