New Hampshire Lesbian's Paternity Suit Revived
(CN) - A woman who broke up with her longtime girlfriend still enjoys "paternity" rights over the child whom the girlfriend carried, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled.
Under New Hampshire law, "a man is presumed to be the father of a child if: ... While the child is under the age of majority, he receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his child."
The high court's unanimous ruling last week extends the same parental presumption to same-sex parents, including a parent with no biological tie to the child, and who was never legally married to her partner.
Susan B. and Melissa D. had been together for about a year when held a commitment ceremony in 1998 and decided to raise a family together. Same-sex marriage was not legal in New Hampshire at that time.
Melissa gave birth to Madelyn in 2002. Susan was named as Madelyn's parent in the birth announcements, in her preschool documents and medical records, and was appointed her guardian.
Susan set up the nursery in the home she and Melissa bought together, and was in the delivery room when Madelyn was born.
"From the very beginning, Maddie, Melissa, and I were a family," Susan claimed, as transcribed in the decision. "Melissa was the 'Mommy,' and I was the 'Momma.' Together we were ... Maddie's parents, and Maddie was our daughter. I loved Maddie as my daughter, treated her as my daughter, and saw her as my daughter."
Madelyn was 6 years old when the couple broke up, and Melissa later married a man.
Melissa sought to have Susan's guardianship terminated last year so that her husband could adopt the girl. She claimed that Madelyn no longer wanted to see Susan, and she stopped cashing Susan's child-support checks or answering her ex's phone calls.
The family court found that Susan had no parental rights over Madelyn, and dismissed her parenting petition, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed on July 2.
"Two adults - Melissa and Susan - intentionally brought Madelyn into the world and held her out as their child; we cannot read RSA 168-B:3 so narrowly as to deny Madelyn the legitimacy of her parentage by, and her entitlement to support from, both of them," Justice Gary Hicks wrote for the five-justice court. "We note that the intention of Melissa's husband to adopt Madelyn does not alter our view."
Paternity presumptions give great weight to the familial relationship developed between a parent and child from years of living together, the court noted.
In a different case, "We rejected the contention of the respondent, the child's biological mother, that the petitioner could not be a 'parent' under RSA chapter 461-A because he did not meet the dictionary definition of 'one that begets or brings forth offspring,'" Hicks said.
"Taking Susan's allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, we hold that she has stated a claim for presumed parentage under RSA 168-B:3, I(d)," the opinion concludes.