FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 27, 2005
Pennsylvania Court Affirms That Child's Best Interest is Key Issue in Custody Disputes Involving Lesbian Parents
"Fairness and neutrality require that biology alone not be a determining factor in custody or visitation disputes."
(Philadelphia, PA, September 27, 2005) — Today, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed that custody disputes involving children of same-sex parents must be based on the best interests of the child, just as they are in cases involving heterosexual parents. The Superior Court affirmed a trial court awarding primary custody to a non-biological lesbian mother, Patricia Jones. The court had previously held that it was in the best interest of the children to live with Jones, rather than their birth mother Ellen Boring (Jones' ex-partner).
"The Court recognized that the central issue was the best interests of the children and applied long-standing legal principles to promote those interests," said Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director. "Fairness and neutrality require that biology alone not be a determining factor in custody or visitation disputes."
The Court explained: "Jones . . . establish[ed] that the children would be better off with her as the primary custodian and that the children's relationship with both parties would be better fostered if custody were awarded to Jones."
Ellen Boring and Patricia Jones were in a committed relationship for 14 years, during which time they decided to have children together. Boring gave birth to twin boys, and the couple parented the children together for four years before separating in 2001. In 2004, Jones filed for custody. After hearing extensive evidence, a trial court determined that it was in the children's best interest to award custody to Jones. Boring appealed the court's ruling, arguing that she should automatically be given custody because she is the birth mother. The Superior Court rejected the argument that biology alone should determine custody. Rather, the Superior Court held that the primary focus must always be on the best interests of the child.
Jones was represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, The Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and local counsel Maureen Gatto of Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.