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Florida appellate court decides "unique" same-sex custody case

Calling it "a unique case," and stating that "the appellate courts in Florida have never before considered a case quite like it," a state appeals court in Daytona Beach ruled last month that a Brevard County judge erred in a child custody case involving a same-sex couple.

The material facts underlying the case are as follows. A lesbian couple from central Florida, determined to have a child, consulted with a reproductive doctor. One of the women donated an egg to be fertilized. The father was an anonymous sperm donor who waived his legal rights. The woman's partner had the egg implanted in her womb and carried it to term, having a baby daughter.

The child's birth certificate stated only the name of the woman who carried her to term as the mother. The couple eventually became estranged and split up in 2006, when the girl was two years old.

Issues regarding parenting rights, custody, visitation and child support eventually ended up in state court, where the Brevard Country judge ruled that, under state law, only the woman who gives birth is the mother. The ruling effectively cut off the egg provider's rights to the child.

The 5th District Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, saying that it was antiquated and unfair. The court remanded the case back to the trial judge, ordering him to give the egg-donor mother access to the child and attend to visitation, custody and related matters.

The proper focus, said the higher court, must be on the child's well-being and best interests.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Both lesbian moms have parental rights, Florida court rules" Rene Stutzman, Jan 3, 2012

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