Biological Mom Kept From Child in Lesbian Legal Case

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Lesbian Couple Were at First Amicable

Tina's lawyer said that the birth mother had turned "mean" after an amicable separation. "It happens a lot in divorcing couples," said Segal.

He said his client had been painted as a "donor mother," which was far from the truth.

"That is not a term that has legal sense to it," Segal said. "She was not giving [her eggs] with no strings attached and relinquishing rights. That wasn't happening here. She intended to be part of the child's life."

At first, the biological mother paid child support to her ex-partner and the couple worked out a time-share arrangement with their daughter, who had moved with her birth mother back with family in North Carolina.

But at some point, the birth mother decided to go to Australia for an educational law enforcement program, taking the child with her and not telling her ex-partner.

"Letters were returned by the birth mother's mother and she got tight-lipped," said Segal. "We started piecing things together and bringing in an investigator from Australia."

Tina and her lawyer filed a petition at the trial level asking to be declared a legal mother with parental rights. She also challenged the constitutionality of Florida law.

"The bottom line was, we wanted her to be a legal parent and given enforceable legal rights," said Segal.

The appeals court sent the case back to circuit court to determine visitation, custody and child support arrangement with an emphasis on the well-being of their daughter.

Two other similar court cases in New York City and California are also raising national attention.

"It does appear to be a trend where courts are looking at the intention of the parties to decide who the legal parents are, and that has applications for [couples] who plan to have a child and create that child through artificial insemination and to raise that child, even if the relationship goes awry," said Lambda Legal's Littrell.

"It was a great decision for this family and for each of the parents with the child at the center of the controversy," she said. "The language and the reasoning the court employed bode well for same-sex couples across the board."

As for Tina, she is now living with a new partner and has another child and one on the way. She said her legal fight has been expensive, but "all worth it if I can get her back."

"Shame on me," said Tina that she didn't understand the legal complexities that would be involved. "I did not know that I would not be on the birth certificate, that I would not have any legal right to my biological child."

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