Victory! Kentucky Supreme Court Unanimously Affirms Lesbian Mother’s Right to Custody Petition in Lambda Legal Case

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February 18, 2016
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Today, in a unanimous decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Lambda Legal client, Amy H., a lesbian mother, will have her day in court to petition for joint custody of her daughter.

Christopher Clark, Counsel and LGBT Young Adults, Teens, and Children Program Strategist for Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, said:

This decision is a victory for the child, above all else. By allowing our client to intervene in the underlying adoption action, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that the family court will be presented with all of the available evidence to make a custody decision that is in the best interest of the child. We are pleased that our client will have her day in court to fight to preserve her relationship with her 9-year old daughter.

Justice Cunningham wrote in the opinion:

What we write here today applies equally to a myriad of human relationships including heterosexual parenting, boyfriends, girlfriends, grandparents, and others. Most importantly, this case is about [the minor child].

Amy and Melissa were in a committed relationship for more than five years and decided to have a child together. They agreed that Melissa would carry the child, and Amy was involved in every aspect of the pregnancy. When their daughter was born in September 2006, Amy was there to cut the umbilical cord and the child even has Amy’s middle and last names. The child understands Amy to be her mother.

When Amy and Melissa ended their relationship in 2011, they continued to co-parent the child, but in February 2014, Melissa, the biological mother, abruptly denied Amy any contact with their daughter. While ignoring all attempts by Amy to contact her about seeing the child, Melissa and her husband, Wesley, filed a petition for stepparent adoption of the girl, and Amy was not identified in the petition as a parent whose consent was required. Amy then filed a petition for joint custody in Kenton County Family Court.

In July 2014, the Kenton Family Court ruled that Amy had a legitimate claim to seek shared custody of the child. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

In September 2015, Lambda Legal filed a brief in the Kentucky Supreme Court on behalf of Amy arguing that Kentucky law grants Amy a right to intervene in the adoption proceedings because of her significant claim to joint custody due to the years the child has known Amy as her mother.

Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals ruling and agreed with the Kenton Family Court that Amy should have the opportunity to go to trial on her custody petition before the stepfather’s petition for adoption could be addressed.

Read the press release.