The former same-sex partner of a child’s biological mother cannot claim she is entitled to custody of the child since she has no biological connection to him, nor has she legally adopted him, the state Superior Court has ruled.
The court affirmed a Centre County trial judge’s opinion in C.G. v. J.H. The judge had found that C.G., who had been in a relationship with the biological mother of a son born in Florida through artificial insemination, was not entitled to custody of the boy because she was not legally considered a parent.
J.H. alleged in preliminary objections to C.G.’s suit that the decision to have the child, J.W.H., was hers alone and C.G.’s role was solely that of her girlfriend, according to Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Carl Solano’s opinion. J.H. claimed that she made all of the important decisions regarding the child, that C.G. provided minimal financial support and that mother and son both moved out of C.G.’s Florida home to Pennsylvania when J.W.H. was six years old.
C.G. countered that she had standing in loco parentis under Pennsylvania’s Child Custody Law. However, the trial judge held that because same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption was not yet legal in Florida in 2006 when J.H.W. was born, C.G. did not have standing as a parent.
C.G. appealed to the Superior Court, arguing that the trial court had made an error or abused its discretion in ruling that she did not have in loco parentis standing. However, Solano said the ruling was correct.
“C.G. does not cite any statute or case law establishing that a former life partner who has no biological relationship to the child and has not adopted the child can be a ‘parent to the child’ under 23 Pa.C.S. Section 5324(1),” Solano said. “Moreover, our case law has consistently treated same-sex life partners who have not adopted a child as third parties for purposes of custody matters.”
He added, “Accordingly, we conclude that under our case law, the trial court did not err in finding that C.G. lacked standing as a parent under Section 5324(1), particularly since the parties had agreed that C.G. was not a parent when the child was born.”
Laura Kaye Robbins, a State College attorney who represents C.G., said, “Unfortunately, this case possessed circumstances where the parties separated during the evolution of same-sex child custody rights across the nation. I am hopeful that as legislation catches up with the advancement of same-sex rights, the type of issues my client faced in this case will become moot.”
Julia Rater of McQuaide Blasko in State College did not return a call seeking comment.
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.