A Seattle woman who hasn't been able to see the child she and her same-sex partner were raising since the couple separated will be allowed to seek parental rights. The Washington State court of appeals ruled Monday that Sue Ellen Carvin, who goes by the name Mian, can return to a King County superior court and seek to prove that she has a parental relationship with the girl, now 8 years old.
The ruling could create a new class of parent in the state.
Carvin sued her former partner, Page Britain, in November 2002, alleging that Britain had unfairly cut off access to Britain's biological daughter. Carvin has not seen the girl in two years, and her attorney, Patricia Novotny, said the woman is "so very pleased and anxious to be reunited with her daughter."
"This case is about the relationship between my daughter and me," Carvin said in a written statement, "but it stretches beyond those boundaries to include people in similar situations."
Britain's attorney, Gayle Brenchley, argued that giving parental rights to people without a biological relationship or who didn't adopt is dangerous. She said under the court's rationale, nearly anyone who lives with a single mother and helps take care of a child could make parental claims later. She did not know whether Britain would appeal.
The women became romantically involved in 1989 and decided to have Britain artificially inseminated in 1994. Carvin has maintained that the couple agreed she would be the girl's primary caregiver, shuttling her to swimming lessons and soccer practices, playing with and disciplining the child. Then the women split, and Britain married the sperm donor. When Carvin was subsequently barred from seeing the girl, she sought legal help.
A court commissioner sided with Britain, as did King County superior court judge Michael Trickey, who dismissed Carvin's petition to be declared a parent early last year. On Monday, the appeals court agreed that Carvin did not have standing under the state's Uniform Parentage Act. But the three-judge panel found she could seek status as a "de facto or psychological parent" by presenting evidence of a
Carvin must show that she lived with the girl and took on parental duties free of charge. She also must prove Britain encouraged her relationship with the child and that they bonded.