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Nonbiological
mother wins child visitation rights

Nonbiological
mother wins child visitation rights

A Pennsylvania woman has won the right to visit the child she parented with her lesbian former partner despite the objections of the partner, who is the birth mother.

A Pittsburgh woman can see the child she parented with her lesbian former partner even though the birth mother does not want to her to do so, a state appeals court ruled. The case, decided Monday by a state superior court panel, is essentially a custody case, and the women's sexual orientation played little role in the decision. Rather, the court said the biological mother should not be rewarded for alienating the child from her former partner, who is identified in court papers only as T.B. Lambda Legal, which argued the case for T.B., said the ruling would protect the rights of all parents. "The court valued this parent-child relationship the same as any other and acted to preserve it without regard to sexual orientation or the other parent's bitterness," said Alphonso David, an attorney for Lambda. The appeals court sent the case back to a judge in Cambria County, where both women live, to determine how to arrange visitation in the child's best interest. "The court is reinstating immediate visitation at this point," Alphonso said Tuesday. "She is excited to see her daughter." The two women began a relationship in the late 1980s, and one became pregnant through artificial insemination in 1992. The two raised the girl until they separated in August 1996. A year later a court granted custody to the birth mother and allowed visitation rights to T.B. The biological mother appealed. In December 2001 the Pennsylvania supreme court ruled that T.B. had legal standing as a parent and sent the case back to the trial court in Cambria County to work out visitation. But county judge F. Joseph Leahey ruled in June that because the child had been alienated from T.B., visitation wasn't in the child's best interest. T.B. appealed to the superior court, saying the birth mother had driven a wedge between her and the girl, who is now 11. She has seen the girl only once since 1997 during a psychological evaluation. The birth mother's attorney, Nicholas Banda, did not immediately return a message left at his office seeking comment. He had argued that because T.B. had seen the child only once since 1997, there essentially was no relationship. Superior court judge Michael T. Joyce wrote that the biological mother should not be rewarded for seeking to alienate the child. "It is inconceivable that an embittered spouse who successfully estranges the children from the other spouse...should be rewarded," Joyce wrote. "The preposterousness of this scenario is equally applicable to the case...despite appellant's nontraditional status." (AP)

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