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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lesbian Loses Custody Battle After Breakup

(CN) - The Delaware Supreme Court denied custody to a lesbian who claimed she was the legal and actual adoptive parent of a child from Kazakhstan, a country that forbids same-sex adoption.

Lacey Smith and Charlene Gordon were in their fifth year of a romantic relationship when they decided to adopt.

Because Kazakhstan does not allow two women to adopt the same child, they agreed that Smith would be the legal adoptive parent. The women took turns staying home with the child and split any child-related expenses.

When the couple broke up in 2004, Gordon filed for custody, claiming she is a co-parent and is called "Mommy."

The Family Court ruled that although Gordon is not the legal adoptive parent, she has standing to sue for custody as a de facto parent.

In March 2007, the court granted Gordon joint legal and physical custody.

But the state Supreme Court said Gordon did not qualify as a parent, even under the expansive American Law Institute standards, because she did not live with the child for at least two years. She had spent only 13 months with the child before she and Smith broke up, and Gordon moved out.

"The Delaware judiciary cannot now independently confer upon a de facto parent the same status as a legal parent either as a matter of statutory construction or common law," Justice Holland wrote.

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