The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in favor of an adoptive lesbian mother, denying visitation rights to her former partner.
Here are the facts in a nutshell: Two women, identified as Janice M. and Margaret K. by the court, met in 1986. After in vitro fertilization attempts failed, the couple adopted a child from India. India prohibits same-sex adoptions, so Janice adopted the child without her partner obtaining legal status. Presumably, Margaret relied on their long-term relationship to assume that no legal formalities were required. Besides, there is no Maryland case law or statute addressing whether same-sex parents may adopt children. But we know in practice that many Maryland same-sex couples adopt children, notwithstanding the lack of legal approbation. Here, both Janice and Margaret were acting as the child’s parents, dividing up responsibilities for caring for the child.
After an eighteen-year relationship, the couple separated in 2004. Janice kept the house and physical custody of the child, but Margaret continued to see the child three or four times a week. Not surprisingly, Janice soon wielded her legal status as the mother over Margaret, setting new conditions for visitation and requiring details as to who would be with the child during visitation. Reading between the lines, I suspect Margaret was the one that ended the relationship.