A lesbian coparent is entitled to seek visitation with the child that she jointly brought into the world and coparented with her former partner, the California court of appeal ruled on Wednesday. The legal issues presented in the case are the same as those in three other cases currently pending before the California supreme court.
The woman, identified only as Angela G., and her former partner were in a committed relationship and decided to have a child together through artificial insemination, using an anonymous sperm donor. Angela paid for the insemination and participated fully in preparing for the child's birth. After the child was born in 1988, Angela and her partner raised the child together. When the couple separated in September of 2000, Angela initially had regular visitation and paid child support.
Angela's former partner later cut off all contact between Angela and the child. Angela filed a lawsuit seeking to protect her relationship with the child. A trial court ruled against her, relying on a case more than 15 years old, holding that a lesbian partner is not entitled to seek custody or visitation with a child unless she has completed an adoption.
In Wednesday's decision, the court of appeal reversed the trial court and held that Angela is entitled to seek visitation. "Under the intended-parent doctrine, parents who intend to procreate a child through artificial means are held to be the legal parents to the child," the ruling stated.
"There are hundreds of thousands of couples, including many same-sex couples, who use assisted reproduction to have children. Without question, those parent-child relationships are just as authentic and real as any others," said Courtney Joslin, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "We are gratified that the court of appeal recognized this reality and held that Angela must be allowed to protect her relationship with her son."