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Missouri Court of Appeals Says Non-Biological Parent Can Seek Custody Based on Significant, Bonded Relationship
National Center for Lesbian Rights says, “What matters is the love and care a parent gives to her child, not biology”
(St. Louis, MO, October 3, 2017)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) won an appeal on behalf of Kathleen M., a lesbian mother in Missouri who has been allowed to seek shared custody or visitation with her son. In the case K.M.M. v. K.E.W., the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District ruled that a non-biological parent who raised a child from birth can seek custody or visitation.
The Court of Appeals explained that Kathleen and her former partner, Kate, jointly planned to conceive their son, and then raised him together as a family for many years. Kathleen took maternity leave, stayed home with him when he was sick, and acted as his parent in every way. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court wrongfully dismissed Kathleen’s case because “the evidence is such that it leads to only one sensible conclusion: this was a family under every reasonable definition aside from legal.”
Kathleen M. and Kate W. were in a committed same-sex relationship and had a child through assisted reproduction using an anonymous sperm donor in 2011. Kathleen and Kate raised their son as a family for several years. The parties separated in 2015, and Kate stopped allowing Kathleen to see their child. Kathleen sought custody and visitation in 2015, which the trial court denied.
“I am so grateful for even the possibility that I can hold my son again,” said Kathleen M. “I hope this decision will help other parents like me so that no parent or their child will have to experience this heartbreak.”
“All children and their parents deserve to be treated as a family,” said NCLR Family Law Director Catherine Sakimura. “What matters is the love and care a parent gives to her child, not biology.”
“The Court of Appeals correctly interpreted Section 452.375.5, and further refined the growing body of law relating to third party custody, especially the application of the ‘welfare’ prong of the statute,” said Michelle Spirn, who also represented Kathleen M. “I believe that the Court correctly determined my client’s relationship to her son – they are family.”
NCLR represented Kathleen M., along with Missouri attorney Michelle Spirn.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org