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Court allows nonbiological, surrogate mother to pursue custody

Over the last few months, a number of important developments in terms of rights for same-sex couples have occurred. As it currently stands, however, Arkansas state law only recognizes marriage between opposite-sex couples, which may leave a number of families feeling like their legal options are limited.

The Nevada Supreme Court recently made a ruling on a case that may be of interest to families headed by same-sex couples in our state. Two women who were in a relationship until 2009 have spent the last few years grappling over a child custody agreement. In 2008, the couple had a child together. One of the women donated her egg and the other was the surrogate. After the couple split up, the surrogate mother was denied custody because she has no biological relation to the child.

Most recently, the state's supreme court overturned an inferior court's ruling that will allow the surrogate mother to seek custody rights. In their ruling, the court explained that the woman simply is more than just a surrogate, because she has an emotional connection to her child. By pointing to a parenting agreement signed by both women before the child was born, the high court provided her the opportunity to gain joint custody of her child. In the end, this case could be an important statement for nonbiological parental rights.

Many same-sex couples may face challenges because their relationships aren't recognized by state law. Without these protections, any disagreements about parenting or other family law matters become even more sensitive and complex. The important thing to know, however, is that legal solutions may exist. A knowledgeable attorney can provide guidance through these difficult situations.

Source: Associated Press, "High court: Surrogate mom in same-sex relationship can seek child custody after breakup," Sandra Cherub, Oct. 3, 2013

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