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.

Next: Siblings Left Behind