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Court must reconsider surrogacy mother's custody plea

Some family law cases are a bit more complex than others. At the least, they test new legal ground in given jurisdictions and are instructive for how courts elsewhere, including in Florida, might view and resolve a contested matter.

A case in point involves a child custody issue that has been playing out for some time in Nevada between a same-sex female couple. One of the women, Veronica Lynn Damon, supplied an egg provided by an anonymous donor to her partner, Sha’Kayla St. Mary, who carried it to term. The couple’s child was born in June 2008.

Although the child’s birth certificate listed St. Mary as the mother, she later averred in an affidavit after the couple broke up that Damon was the biological mother.

The ex-couple subsequently ended up in a Nevada state court, with St. Mary seeking custody and child support. A Clark County judge ruled against her, stating that under Nevada law she was a “mere surrogate” and entitled to nothing more than third-party visitation rights.

That far from ended the matter, with the dispute ultimately working its way up to the Nevada Supreme Court. That tribunal issued a ruling last week that overruled the lower court and remanded the case for reconsideration.

Justices in the state’s highest court ruled that a joint-parenting agreement executed by the two women prior to the child’s birth made St. Mary more than a surrogate. Her claim of parenthood, stated the court, was entitled to consideration under the state’s Parentage Law.

Moreover, the justices noted, St. Mary’s demand to be included as a capable and nurturing parent pursuant to an existing parenting agreement “must not be foreclosed on account of the parents being of the same sex.”

Source: CBS Las Vegas, "Court: Surrogate mom can seek child custody," Oct. 3, 2013

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