ABA Journal


Family Law

A child can have two legal mothers, Nevada Supreme Court says

Oct 7, 2013, 11:15 am CDT


"Damon said they signed the contract merely to satisfy the fertility clinic’s requirements and to provide insurance for the child."

Ah, so she was just committing fraud against the clinic and insurance company. How does that figure into the best interests of the child?

By W.R.T. on 2013 10 07, 1:07 pm CDT

But the laws of nature say that a child can have just one mother, and just one father

By Yankee on 2013 10 07, 2:37 pm CDT

Yankee: for biological parents, you are correct. For legal parents - as in, who do we recognize as the parent - theoretically you could have as many as the law wants to allow. Usually there are two, but it' isn't always a mom and a dad. And sometimes there's just one - a mom or a dad.

By RecentGrad on 2013 10 07, 2:45 pm CDT


So, adoptive parents shouldn't legally be recognized as the parents of a child? After all, by the laws of nature, they aren't that child's parents.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 10 07, 2:54 pm CDT

Why can't she have 3 legal mothers?

Who are we to limit a child to 2 because of our hillybilly views on morality?

By tim17 on 2013 10 07, 2:55 pm CDT

@4 Heather should not have two mommies.

By Yankee on 2013 10 07, 3:31 pm CDT


Ok, here's another one. I have a coworker who has divorced and remarried. He has custody of his daughter from the first marriage and his second wife has now legally adopted the daughter. For reasons completely unknown to me however he still allows his first wife to visit and see his daughter and so she has her "bio mommy" and her "mommy mommy". Same problem for you?

By OKBankLaw on 2013 10 07, 6:08 pm CDT

Why can't a child have multiple parents? What is wrong with so many people loving and caring for a child? The face of the family in the US has changed. In this case, the women intended for both to be parents to that child. The NV Supreme Court is correct and the lower court will, based on the documents referenced in the opinion, find the parties intended to co-parent the child. It is in the child's best interests to maintain continuity. Lawyers should read those clinic forms. Many are taken from the internet, cut and pasted and contain contradictory language. The NV Court references the CA Supreme Court decision in KM v. EG and Elisa B. v Superior Ct. Those are interesting cases, part of a trilogy and all issued on the same day. KM is the case most pertinent to the issues at play in the Nevada case.

Granted, these women would have been well-served by seeking legal counsel before proceeding, but many couples do not. From the court's opinion it appears they were winging it. That is unfortunate, and they are paying a price now. This is an exciting area of law and will continue to challenge lawyers and the courts.

By Joan M. Burda on 2013 10 07, 9:56 pm CDT

There is a similar case pending at the Florida Supreme Court (T.M.H. v. D.M.T. (SC12-216)). The lesbian couple there was in a committed relationship for 8 years; the egg of one partner was fertilized and implanted in the other, who carried it to term. The debate there in part centers on whether the partner whose egg was used can be considered a "donor" under state law, who loses all parental rights. Equal protection and substantive due process are also implicated in the case, according to the intermediate appellate court.

You can find further discussion of that case <a href="http://">here</a>.

By FlascBlog on 2013 10 08, 1:08 pm CDT

"Legal parents" was devised to estalish who pays child support as well as who has parental rights, and that's why adoption is adversarial. If adoption didn't make the child a "legal fiction" by erasing his biological parents from his birth certificate and his life, who knows what could happen -- There may be no need for adoption and the kid might find out both sets of parents love him and not get so messed up psychologically. Wouldn't that be terrible for the pyschiatric and adopton industry, not to mention the child trafficking industry.

By Loei Carangelo on 2013 10 09, 2:04 am CDT

It's a fiction that any child can have two mothers or two fathers. Psychologically, the powerful bond in the role of mother comes from the exclusivity. Similar to the exclusivity of an intimate partner. That is why married partners are devastated when one has an affair even if it was only sex. Because the exclusivity generates a powerful reciprocal bond and role that is attenuated by the inclusion of others sharing in the role. Fathers have a complimentary exclusive role to mother, they are not the same role. Step-parents too have a different role, not the same as the exclusive role of mother or father.

The problem I have with people trying to redefine the emotional meaning of mother are doing it for their own adult interests rather than understanding what psychologically healthy for children. Alice Walker's gay daughter Rebecca Walker has written an honest piece on this saying that when her partner gave birth and made her the second mother it was a fiction as she did not have the same bond a mother has because it was not her child.

By Santana on 2013 10 09, 5:08 pm CDT

I'd say the powerful bond between a mother and child comes from a lot more than just the fact there's just one of them. I'm certainly no psychologist or expert in the field of course, but I have volunteered to work with children from families where the mother abandoned them. I've seen them develop just as deep a bond with parents who adopt and love them as any that could've existed just because of biology.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 10 10, 8:15 pm CDT

This is a ridiculous story. First, and notwithstanding the court, there can only be one mother of a child. Second, this is the kind of low-life behavior that is being induced by the Homosexual Normalization agitators. Finally, the saddest part of this story (and any other about a child forced into the middle of a inherently dysfunctional relationship) is that this child will be forced to be in the middle of this disordered relationship.

The Homosexual Normalization agitators are some of the most selfish, hateful, and bigoted people I've had the displeasure of meeting. They insist on "tolerance" (i.e., a euphemism for "accept, or else"). Moreover, their idea of "tolerance" is a one-way street, i.e., you accept their behavior (or else) and the don't have to accept any of your beliefs/behavior.

By Slaw on 2013 10 11, 1:08 pm CDT

Courts in Ontario, Canada, have come to similar conclusions about surrogate parenthood on facts like those of this case - and have ordered the registrar of vital statistics to make room for that kind of information on the official records. The province amended the statute after the decision. It makes lots of sense. The traditional names and concepts have been displaced by what technology provides, and society and its law have to move along with it, preserving the essential values but being careful about what *is* essential.

By John G on 2013 10 11, 1:14 pm CDT

@11 - You have no clue what you are talking about. Just because Rebecca Walker felt a certain way, doesn not mean all non-birth mothers feel that was. My niece has two boys, both of which she carried, because her partner has health issues that would have made it more dangerous for her to have carried. She adopted the boys and they have bonded completely with both mom's.

Loving and bonding with your child has nothing to do with your biological status, gender, or sexual orientation. It has to do with your heart and your committment.

A college friend of mind was murdered last year in a suspected gay-bashing incident. He and his partner of 35 years -- who finally got to marry here in New York when gay marriage was legalized -- raised two children together. Do you think they mourned any less for their father or were less attached to him because they had two fathers, rather than a father and a mother?

I'm not surprised at Yankee's comment. I hope he/she has no children, because, he/she clearly has no idea what it means to be a parent.

By donniem23 on 2013 10 11, 1:26 pm CDT

The comments here are funny. I have a secret. I see trolls!

By TOG on 2013 10 11, 1:33 pm CDT

Argument: You are the Mother. Christin was just a surrogate.

By Julie on 2013 10 11, 1:39 pm CDT

@13, sounds like the pot calling the kettle black, not that there's anything wrong with being black, of course.

@17, Argument: St. Mary is the mother. Damon was just a donor. Doesn't make much sense either way, does it? What makes sense is that they are both the mother. That's what they clearly both intended, and that's what the child knows and is entitled to. Just because having 2 mothers does not fit in some constricted, right-wing evangelist morality does not mean it is not the reality for that child. What is in the child's best interests? In this case, it sounds like continuity in two loving parents.

By pinkvibes on 2013 10 11, 2:44 pm CDT

Wow--so many "lawyers" and not too many compassionate humans--no one is concerned for the child, and what sort of emotional scars the child will be left with from essentially being treated as "chattel."

Young child--I will pray for you. We all should

By EG on 2013 10 11, 3:22 pm CDT

Enough with the Focus on the Family trolls. Any of you adopted and in contact with your birth parents? My sister is...and she has a great relationship with both. Enough with your "exclusivity" and faux psychology. This is about legal rights, not your interpretation of Genesis.

By NCLawyer on 2013 10 11, 3:40 pm CDT

4: You are right: but after the adoption the biological parents are no longer the parents.

By Andrew on 2013 10 11, 3:49 pm CDT


Ah, but the statement wasn't aimed at the laws of man, but rather the laws of nature, which Yankee so thoughtfully invoked.

By OKBankLaw on 2013 10 11, 4:32 pm CDT

The funny thing about ALL the preceding comments is that someday (and I predict it will be astonishingly soon) everyone will be in agreement that these two mothers can both be the parents.

Sure, it's a radical change that will "redefine the emotional meaning of mother", as Santana #11 says. But so what? Civilization has redefined the emotional meaning of a lot of basics in the last 2,000 years, including freedom/slavery, government by the people, kings as divine, conquering lands occupied by non-Europeans, etc.

Very, very soon, it would "redefine the emotional meaning of mother" to DENY these two women their parenthood, just because the norm will be that love makes a family, and people will believe and feel that both the egg donor and the birth woman are the kid's mother. (Yes, the people who believe that may have some pretty appalled grandparents - i.e. us folks, who lived in a one-mother-one-father era - but those grandparents will have moved on to a better place, so who cares.)

By Avon on 2013 10 12, 5:22 am CDT

@2 Yankee, what do the "laws of nature" have to do with a situation wherein one woman gave birth to a child, from another woman's egg, which was fertilized in vitro???

By Joe on 2013 10 13, 6:23 pm CDT

What you describe is very unnatural, Joe.

By Yankee on 2013 10 13, 8:18 pm CDT

@ Yankee, @ Slaw. As a woman (and a lawyer) who has been in a committed relationship for over 30 years, my child, grandchild, and great grandchildren have NO problem seeing my partner as a second mother, another grandmother, or another great grandmother. And no, I do not have any agenda except to live my life being respected for who I am, not whom I love. I certainly do not see my relationship as any more dysfunctional than that of most straight couples I know. It was a straight couple who molested my granddaughter!

By SiberMom on 2013 10 14, 5:06 pm CDT

Also not to be underestimated but not yet mentioned: the physiological effect of being by any particular woman. It's not as if you are born exactly the same 9 months later no matter what you have undergone in utero. Food, stress, exercise, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, happiness, other emotions...they all affect the fetus.

By Keithustus on 2013 10 14, 7:40 pm CDT

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