LaNesha Matthews and Kyresha LeFever were a same-sex couple who had twins together using assisted reproduction. Their children were conceived using Kyresha’s eggs, and LaNesha gave birth, a process sometimes called egg sharing or reciprocal IVF. The parents broke up when the twins were young but coparented and shared custody for years until a dispute arose when the twins were 5-years-old.
Kyresha sought shared custody, which the trial court initially granted after determining that Kyresha is a parent based on her genetic connection to the children. The court then questioned whether LaNesha was a parent and ruled that LaNesha was a surrogate without any parental rights despite the fact that she gave birth to the children and parented them for nearly 7 years. The court removed LaNesha from the birth certificates, prevented her from participating in their educational or medical decisionmaking, and allowed her only limited visitation as an unrelated “third party.”
On April 1, 2021, the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the trial court’s ruling, finding that LaNesha and Kyresha are both equal parents to their children and recognizing that a woman who gives birth to a child intending to be a parent is a parent regardless of genetic ties. One of the judges wrote an additional opinion arguing that Michigan law should also recognize other nongenetic parents whether or not they gave birth because they have a constitutional right to recognition.
NCLR represented LaNesha on appeal before the Michigan Court of Appeals along with her trial counsel Regina Jemison. Amicus briefs were filed on LaNesha’s behalf by a number of law professors written by Professors Courtney Joslin and Douglas NeJaime, the ACLU, ACLU of Michigan, Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for Genetics and Society, and Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research.