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Illinois court rules nonbiological parent has rights and obligations to the child

Article authored by Jeffery M. Leving.

An Illinois appellate court has ruled that the nonbiological parent in a same-sex relationship has the same parental rights and obligations as the biological parent, according to the Rockford Register Star. The decision’s ramifications could extend beyond same-sex parents to parents in opposite-sex relationships as well. The case, which stemmed from a child custody dispute, highlights a growing area of controversy surrounding what legal rights nonbiological parents should have in their children’s lives. The issue is one that many legal experts contend will only be resolved by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Court rules in favor of nonbiological parent

In the Illinois case, two women, both from Rockford, Illinois, married in 2009 in Iowa and subsequently bought a home and lived together in Rockford. Both of the women decided they wanted to raise a child together and one of the women became pregnant through artificial insemination. Both women were listed as co-parents on the child’s birth certificate, and both took time off from their jobs to raise the baby girl.

However, seven months after the baby was born, the couple split up. While both women shared parenting duties, the biological mother eventually applied for full custody of the child. She argued that the child spent the majority of her time with her and that the nonbiological parent should not be viewed as parent to the girl.

However, the 2nd District Appellate Court disagreed, ruling that the nonbiological mother still had parental rights to the child.

Effects extend beyond same-sex relationships

As the Chicago Tribune reports, the ruling has implications far beyond same-sex relationships. The nonbiological mother in this case, for example, never formalized her parental obligations to the child by adopting or assuming guardianship over her. The biological mother’s attorney accused the court of engaging in “judicial activism” for not taking the child’s best interests into account when making the decision and for citing two cases that neither party cited in their own arguments.

The ruling gives nonbiological parents certain parental rights, such as visitation and the ability to seek custody. However, it also exposes nonbiological parents to obligations that some may not expect, such as being held responsible for providing child support.

The issue is still very much evolving in the courts. Previously, for example, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that unmarried mothers or fathers who consented to artificial insemination could be held responsible for their parental duties. Other cases and other courts have differed on whether to give deference to biological or nonbiological parents. Many legal experts suspect that the issue will only be fully resolved when a case concerning the parental rights and duties of nonbiological parents reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you have a family law problem — get help!

The world of family law is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to parents’ rights and obligations. Anybody who has a child support or custody issue that they are concerned about should contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. The legal system can be complex and difficult to navigate, but a skilled attorney can overcome these obstacles and advocate aggressively and passionately for his client’s best interests.