On Friday, the Vermont State Supreme Court handed down a significant decision in a child custody dispute between an estranged lesbian couple. The ruling in Sinnott v. Peck is one of many recent landmark state court decisions that protect same-sex parents’ rights and preserve the bonds between parents and their children……
In August 2015, Sarah filed a petition for parental rights as a de-facto parent. The judge denied her request—despite the fact that Sarah had cared for the children since they were infants, provided for their everyday needs, and formed strong emotional bonds with the girls. Because neither the Vermont Legislature nor Vermont courts ever recognized the rights of a person to secure parental rights over a child to whom that person had no biological relationship or raised in a marital household, the judge ruled Sarah had no standing to assert parental rights over the children under Vermont law. With the assistance of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Sarah and her attorney appealed to the state’s highest court.
The Vermont Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling, allowing Sarah to petition for rights over the two children. Following the lead of highest state courts in New York and Massachusetts, the court explained that “limiting parental status to individuals who are biologically linked to the child, have legally adopted, or are married or joined in civil union with the child’s legal parent at birth” could tear families apart even when two people agree ex-ante to raise a child together, the child forms a parental bond with both parents, and when the child and the outside world always believed both individuals to be the child’s parents. Instead of solely focusing on the adults’ legal relationship or their biological connection to the child, courts can examine the adults’ intentions to raise a child together and the relationship between the adults and the child.
Read More at Slate