Client Compass, Divorce Law Monitor

Same-Sex Parent Claims Victory Over Alabama in Custody Battle

March 10, 2016


Freshly back to work from maternity leave, it warmed my new-mommy/divorce-lawyer heart to see this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming a loving mother’s right to share in the ongoing care and custody of children she helped raise during a long-term same-sex relationship. While the opinion itself speaks much more to jurisdictional issues and the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution than it does to gay rights, the V.L. v. E.L. case represents a significant victory for gay-rights advocates in Alabama, despite the best efforts of that state’s Chief Justice to ignore or outright defy social and legal developments advancing the rights of homosexual couples.

Over the course of their 17-year committed relationship, E.L. and V.L. resided in Alabama, where E.L. birthed three children. At that time (and until the U.S. Supreme Court recently made gay marriage the law of the land), Alabama did not permit gay marriage nor was second-parent adoption an option. Nevertheless, desiring to grant V.L. parental status over the couple’s children, E.L. and V.L. temporarily rented a home in Alpharetta, Georgia. There they successfully petitioned the Georgia courts for V.L. to adopt the children.

Years later, upon the dissolution of the relationship, E.L. challenged V.L.’s parental rights, and the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with her, invalidating the Georgia ruling. Of course, it was not within the power of the Alabama court to reconsider and reject the ruling of its sister state, even if Alabama disagreed with the reasoning or outcome. A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court so ruled this week, relying on Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution:

“Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

May we all, gay or straight, married or divorced, have every opportunity to love our children and promote their happiness. All my best to V.L. and her children.

Hope this helps!

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