SJC: Same-Sex, Never-Married, Non-Biological Parents May Assert Parentage Over Children of the Relationship

Today, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a pioneering opinion about never-married, same-sex families. In Partanen v. Gallagher, two women (“bio mom” and “non-bio mom”) had been together since 2001 although they never married. In 2002, they moved to Florida and bought a home together, and in 2005 they began trying to have a family. Non-bio mom originally tried to conceive through artificial insemination with a sperm donor but was unsuccessful. Ultimately, bio mom tried instead, and conceived two children through artificial insemination with a sperm donor. Non-bio mom was present in the delivery room for the birth of both children, and the parties raised the children together. They moved back to Massachusetts together as a family in 2012.

When the parties separated in 2013, non-bio mom tried to state her claim of parentage over the two children from the relationship whom she helped raise since birth.

The SJC first found that a person may establish herself or himself as a child’s presumptive parent under G. L. c. 209C, §6(a)(4) in the absence of a biological relationship with the child. Then the SJC proffered a two-prong test for stating a claim of parentage: 1) were the children born to both parties? and 2) did the parties receive the children into their home and openly hold out the children as their children?

Here, two key facts sufficiently prove the first prong that the children were born to both parties: the pregnancies were undertaken “with the full acknowledgment, participation, and consent of both parties” and the shared intention for both parties to be parents to the resulting children; and non-bio mom was present in the delivery room when both children were born. As for the second prong, the court finds it sufficient that non-bio mom “participated actively in the care and nurturing of the children form the moment of their birth, that she was involved in key decisions, that [both parties] represented themselves to others—both in form and informal contexts—as the children’s parents, and that the children refer to her as ‘Mommy.’”

Massachusetts continues to lead the way as one of the friendliest states to same-sex families.