A woman who agreed to have a child with her lesbian partner but split up with the mother before the baby's birth cannot be forced to pay child support, Massachusetts's highest court ruled Wednesday. The split ruling by the supreme judicial court--the same court that legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling last year--comes in the case of a Hampshire County lesbian couple, identified in court documents as "T.F." and "B.L.," who lived together from 1996 to 2000. B.L. at first resisted T.F.'s wishes to have a child but later changed her mind. The couple broke up after T.F. became pregnant by artificial insemination. After the baby was born, T.F. sued her former partner for child support. A probate and family court judge turned to the state appeals court, which in turn passed the case up to the supreme judicial court.
Associate Justice Judith A. Cowin wrote that the informal agreement between the two women to have a child together did not constitute an enforceable contract and that B.L. can't be forced to pay child support. Three justices--including Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who wrote the ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts--disagreed with the majority conclusion, saying that the implied contract between the women is enforceable. "The child may have been abandoned by the defendant, but he should not be abandoned by the court," Justice John M. Greaney wrote in the dissent.