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Parental Rights of Non-Biological Parent in Same-Sex Relationship

The recent decision in Springer v. Springer, 277 So. 3d 727 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019), is a cautionary tale for same-sex couples who decide to form a family and raise children. In Springer, Florida's Second District Court of Appeal determined that a non-biological mother in a same-sex relationship with the biological mother did not have standing to petition for recognition of parentage and time-sharing as to the child conceived through intrauterine insemination and donor sperm.

The couple never married and the non-biological mother never adopted the child, but the couple entered into a co-parenting agreement in Ohio that stated that they would jointly and equally share parental responsibility and that the law will recognize the biological mother as the only mother of the child. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the non-biological mother’s petition for recognition of parentage and time-sharing for lack of standing. In affirming, the appellate court relied on Wakeman v. Dixon, 921 So. 2d 669 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006). Notably, despite inquiry by the court, counsel for the non-biological mother did not present any substantive argument regarding Ohio law, the location where the parties entered into the co-parenting agreement.

Same-sex couples are cautioned to seek legal advise from attorneys in the state where they reside who have experience dealing with the unique issues that arise when same-sex couples decide to form a family and raise children and that it is not advisable to rely on co-parenting agreements found on the internet. Same-sex couples should be mindful that their parental rights may be in jeopardy where they are not a biological parent, where they are not married to the biological parent or where a non-biological parent has not adopted the child.

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