California custody dispute turns on unusual paternity issues

A Santa Cruz court is due tomorrow to set a date for an unusual California child custody trial, according to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. The case involves a lesbian couple who agreed to raise twin boys one of them had conceived through artificial insemination. Shortly after the birth of the babies, however, the couple separated and the biological mother moved in with the man who had served as her sperm donor. Now the biological mother and the sperm donor – the children’s biological parents – are now suing for full California child custody.

The case is complicated by the fact that the mother and her ex-partner had agreed to raise the children together, and both of their names appear as parents on the birth certificate. According to the newspaper, however, the partner never formally adopted the twins, and the couple were never registered with the state as domestic partners. The fact that the sperm donor is known, acknowledged by both sides as the biological father of the boys and that he is now in a romantic relationship with their biological mother makes this case particularly unusual and complex.

Changing times, and an evolving conception of what defines a ‘family’ have led to the emergence of many complications in California custody law in recent years as courts struggle to reach fair rulings in situations that might have been unthinkable a generation or two ago. In this case, the paper reports, a Santa Cruz judge has granted the ex-partner’s request for visitation pending the outcome of the trial.

The paper also notes that both sides say they have tried unsuccessfully to settle out of court. The pain and expense of a trial is something most California child visitation and custody lawyers will try to help their clients avoid whenever possible. The paper reports, however, that the entire case is still further complicated by the fact that all three parties readily admit that “there were no written, legal parenting arrangements” agreed between them at the time the mother became pregnant.

Though a tragic situation for the three adults involved in what may prove to be a drawn-out case, this story is also a reminder of the importance of careful thought, and the drawing up of legal agreements, before couples embark on non-traditional roads to family building. A Southern California family law firm can offer detailed advice on the paperwork and agreements you may wish to consider given the particulars of your own circumstances.

San Jose Mercury News: Santa Cruz court to hear former lesbian partners’ custody dispute over twins