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Gay couple awarded custody after surrogate sister sued

The occurrence of nontraditional families is on the rise throughout Ohio and the nation. And if the outcome in a recent same-sex custody matter in another state says anything on the subject, the legal system may be on its way to a more tolerant view of gay parents.

According to records, the two men involved in the aforementioned child custody dispute were wed and wanted a child of their own. One of the men asked his sister to be a surrogate mother for the couple's child. Initially, they had planned to use one of her eggs but were forced to use a donor egg that was fertilized with the sperm of the man's husband. The sister agreed and signed a contract in 2005 that indicated she would not be the biological mother.

Complications arose at some time during the pregnancy that almost ended the life of the woman and the twin girls she was carrying for the men. Soon after the birth, the relationship between the brother and sister turned sour and a lawsuit was filed by the woman. In 2009, a judge found that she was the biological mother and that a surrogate contract was unenforceable. Even though the egg was not hers, a previous judgment from decades ago allowed the court to deem her the mother of the children.

Earlier this month, a judge overseeing the custody dispute between the biological mother and father awarded full custodial rights to the father, allowing the 5-year-old twins to be raised by their intentional parents. In his ruling, he said that the two parties would not be able to agree on many parenting decisions, forcing him to award full custody to one of them.

Since Ohio does not recognize same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships, same-sex couples wishing to raise children have to go through a co-custody agreement, which can help a non-biological parent maintain legal grounds for custody or visitation. Until more governments acknowledge same-sex relationships, couples will need all the help they can get if they want to raise children together.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "N.J. gay couple fight for custody of twin 5-year-old girls," Ted Sherman, Dec. 20, 2011

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