For eight years, LGBTQ couples had the recognized right to marry in this country. But the delay until this right became a reality poses unique legal problems for same-sex couples who divorce or separate.
Court hears impactful case
The state Supreme Court heard arguments in April on a case that will decide a same-sex couple’s custody rights for a child they raised. The couple separated years ago. The Court’s decision can have a lasting impact on the custody rights of a same-sex couple who separate.
The couple never married but participated in a commitment ceremony in 2007. This was before the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the right to same-sex marriage in its 2015 landmark decision.
A woman in this relationship gave birth to a boy in 2008 through in vitro fertilization. The couple separated in 2012 but her partner in the relationship, who is seeking custody, argued that she stayed in contact and cared for the child until 2017 when she was asked not to see the child anymore.
A trial court dismissed her claim in 2021. A Michigan appellate court also affirmed the ruling that year.
The appellant seeking custody argued to the Michigan Supreme Court that she was involved in the child’s life even after the couple separated. She also claimed that the child faces the risk of lacking a two-parent upbringing if the child cannot see both of them. Children conceived in heterosexual relationships, according to this appellant, typically had access to both parents who marry, divorce or separate in Michigan.
Her partner claimed that the appellant has no legal standing to assert child custody. She does not meet the legal requirements for being a natural parent by genetic or biological means, according to the appellee’s arguments.
The appellee also argued that she exercised her right and chose not to marry the plaintiff. The Court should not impose a marriage in this case, according to her legal brief.
Legal questions remain because of the uncertainty of same sex marriages and other legal relationships occurring until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling. In addition to custody, it may also impact other matters such as property division and support.