In same-sex couple dispute, Indiana Court of Appeals calls for lawmakers to refine definition of 'parent'

On October 31, 2013, the Indiana Court of Appeals published its Opinion in the case, A.C. vs. N.J. (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), holding that a same sex domestic partner who was not the biological parent of a child born during the domestic relationship has standing to seek visitation with the child after the relationship has ended. Of course, even with standing, the partner seeking visitation must prove it is in the best interests of the child to be awarded visitation. We are very excited about the ruling on this issue in this case, as our firm represented the partner seeking visitation. Our client had been previously denied the right to see the little boy she had been raising with her partner since his birth. We are so happy that this little boy, and perhaps others like him in the future, will be able to see his “Mommy” even after the end of the adults’ relationship, as long as it is in his best interests.

We were also pleasantly surprised to see that our client’s case was the headline story in the Indianapolis Star on November 1, 2013. dispute-Indiana-appeals-court-calls-refined-definition-parent

Although the Star and others looking at the A.C. case from the outside may see the case as one solely about gay rights, as in whether or not same sex partners should be granted or denied the rights and obligations of parenthood for the children born via artificial insemination during a domestic partnership, the case should instead be seen as a step toward giving the children born into same sex relationships the same rights as children born into heterosexual relationships. Under Indiana law, after a legal marriage ends in divorce, the step-parent to a child of his former spouse may be granted Court Ordered visitation with the child if it is in the best interests of the child. However, in Indiana same sex partners may not legally marry and so far all indications are that same sex couples who have legally married in a State which recognizes marriage for same sex partners will not be recognized in Indiana – the latter being a point this author would like to appeal. Nevertheless, the State’s failure to recognize same sex marriage should not equate to a failure to give equal consideration to the needs of the children born into those relationships.

The Court of Appeals in A.C. vs. N.J. made a great start in putting the needs and interests of all children on a level playing field. Duvall & Fall, P.C. was privileged to be a part of making this piece of history for the betterment of Indiana children.