A Maryland court of appeals ruled Wednesday that a lesbian woman once married to another woman had no right to visitation or custody of a young boy her former partner gave birth to before the couple wed.
According to The Daily Record of Baltimore, the Court of Special Appeals upheld an earlier decision by the Washington County Circuit Court that ruled Michelle Conover does not have parental rights over Jaxon Conover.
The child was born six months prior to Michelle Conover’s marriage to his birth mother, Brittany Conover and 17 months before their divorce.
Judge Robert A. Zarnoch wrote in his opinion that current state law, governing the rights of same-sex couples is not clear and therefore distinguishes Michelle Conover as a “third party” as a opposed to a second parent.
According to the legal filing, Michelle asserted that she met the paternity factors for a “father” set forth in Maryland case law.
“Jaxon, at times, called Michelle ‘Dada’ or ‘Daddy,’ although Brittany later objected to the practice,” the filing stated.
It also pointed out that “on occasion, Brittany referred to Michelle as Jaxon’s father.” The birth certificate, though, listed Brittany as Jaxon’s mother, but no one was identified as the “father.”
Judge Zarnoch wrote in his opinion, “In conclusion, it must be said that this is a sad case; nor can Michelle’s desire for access to Jaxon be questioned. However, the present state of Maryland case law leaves us no choice. The interplay between the State’s paternity statutes and the marriage, divorce, and child access rights of same sex couples is aptly characterized as “uncharted Maryland waters in an area where the Legislature is better suited to consider the competing legal and societal values.”