Bani Chatterjee and her partner, Taya King, were in a committed, long-term relationship and decided to raise a child together through international adoption. Because they could not adopt jointly due to discrimination against same-sex couples, only Taya legally adopted their child from abroad. Although Bani did not adopt their daughter, Taya and Bani co-parented their daughter, and Bani supported the family financially. Bani and Taya eventually ended their relationship after they had lived together as a family for 9 years. Taya moved to Colorado with their daughter and tried to prevent Bani from having any contact with their child.
Bani sought to be recognized as a parent and have shared custody of their daughter, but the New Mexico district court found that she was not a parent and had no right to seek custody or visitation. With her local New Mexico attorneys, NCLR represented Bani in her appeal. On June 1, 2012, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a woman who holds herself out as the child’s parent and has a parental relationship with the child can be a legal parent under New Mexico law, in the same way that a man would be under New Mexico law. This ruling makes it clear that when a same-sex couple raises a child together, they can both be recognized as full legal parents.
Bani Chatterjee was represented by NCLR and New Mexico attorneys Caren I. Friedman and N. Lynn Perls, and initially represented by New Mexico attorney Jerome Ginsburg. Amicus briefs in support of Bani Chatterjee were submitted by a number of family law professors represented by numerous New Mexico family law attorneys, and the National Association of Social Workers represented by the Southwest Women’s Law Center.