Parental rights difficult to determine in some families

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With today’s reproductive technology, it is not always easy to definitively which parent is a baby’s biological or legal mother. Same-sex partnerships have made this question even more complicated, as there might not legally be a “mother” in the traditional sense. The emergence of gay marriage has highlighted some of the ongoing legal battles faced by parents from alternative families-those with only one parent, two parents of the same sex or those who are related to a child in ways other than being the birth parent. In these cases, child custody may not be a simple issue.

Petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court have asked that California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, be ruled unconstitutional. While this ruling would have a positive outcome for thousands of same-sex couples who want to marry, it might also have an effect on the legal rights of other parents.

Legal challenges also include the questions of babies conceived through alternative technology such as in vitro fertilization. Courts are being asked to determine parentage and legal rights for sperm donors, egg donors and the surrogate mothers who carry these children. For cases in which same-sex couples rely on in vitro methods to conceive or adopt children, the legal questions can be complex and confusing, especially if the couple later separates.

A family law attorney may be called upon in many cases to help parents define and defend the rights they have regarding their children. As society continues to redefine what it means to be a parent and what the legal rights of various parents may be, family law attorneys will continue to be on the forefront of the battle, protecting the rights of those who want to raise children.

Source: USA Today, “Who’s Mom? Legally, biologically, it’s no easy answer,” Cathy Lynn Grossman, Dec. 9, 2012

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