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A recent same-sex divorce could change parenthood

The legalization of gay marriage approximately two years ago meant that same-sex couples had something amazing to celebrate: they could now get married in any of the 50 United States. In addition to celebration, however, over the past two years, the legalization of gay marriage has also brought about some legal challenges -- particularly in the realm of child custody.

Marriage laws and protections, which have now been extended to same-sex couples, allow for two gay people to be parents of the same child. That means that the children of same-sex couples will have two dads, or two moms, depending on the relationship. However, one of these parents will not be the biological parent of the child.

The Arizona Supreme Court is currently hearing a case about this very issue. The way the court decides the matter could change the very nature of parental rights in Arizona.

Here is what happened in the case: A woman and her wife chose to have a baby through a sperm bank. One mother is the biological mom, and the other is not. The couple were co-parents, and they shared their parenting responsibilities. They also agreed they would share custody if they divorced. The non-biological mother, however, did not formally adopt the baby.

Eventually, the couple decided to divorce, and the biological mother would not allow the non-biological mother to have contact with the child. The mother is now trying to argue that the nonbiological mother has no parental rights because she is not the biological father. So far, the nonbiological mother has prevailed, but now the case is going before the Arizona Supreme Court, which may need to reinterpret the state's marriage laws to be gender neutral.

This case will be important to keep an eye on, as the way it's decided will have a bearing on any same-sex couples with children in Arizona. If you are a same-sex parent in Arizona, you may want to ask a family law attorney about the current status of your parental rights.

Source: The Arizona Republic, "Allhands: How a lesbian divorce case could redefine parenthood," Joanna Allhand, June 27, 2017

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