Ohio court rejects lesbian parents' claim

BY Advocate.com Editors

August 28 2002 11:00 PM ET

The Ohio supreme court rejected a lesbian couple's claim that both should be considered parents of the six children between them but said a juvenile court still may decide whether to grant their equal-custody request. The court, in a 5-2 decision, sent the case back to the Hamilton County juvenile court that first rejected the request of Teri Bonfield and Shelly Zachritz, who live in suburban Cincinnati. The justices said the juvenile court has jurisdiction to determine the custody of any child who is not a ward of the court and can therefore determine whether the couple's joint-custody request is in the children's best interest.

However, chief justice Thomas Moyer wrote in the majority's opinion that the women can't be considered parents of each other's children because under Ohio law, parent typically includes only the biological or adoptive parent. "We find it inappropriate...to broaden the narrow class of persons who are statutorily defined as parents for purposes of entering a shared parenting agreement," Moyer wrote.

The couple have been together 14 years. Bonfield adopted two sons in 1996. Using artificial insemination, she gave birth to a son in 1996 and then twins--a boy and a girl--in 1998. Zachritz later gave birth to a son by artificial insemination. While Bonfield is the natural or adoptive mother of five of the children, the couple said, Zachritz has been the primary caregiver, and the children consider her their parent. The couple say each woman needs legal custody of the six children in case they separate or one of them dies and that they seek to "confirm their commitment that they will both continue to raise the children regardless of what happens to their relationship," according to court records.

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