Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Oct 02, 2012 06:39 pm CDT
After a bitter court battle, a New York lawyer who adopted her former domestic partner’s biological daughter has been awarded custody of the girl, who is now 6. The case is believed to be the state’s first such ruling involving a same-sex couple.
A custody trial was held in March, and a state court judge held Sept. 20 that Manhattan real estate attorney Allison Scollar is the “more responsible” parent, according to the New York Post and Reuters.
Family Court Judge Gloria Sosa-Lintner ruled that Scollar “is indeed the more responsible parent looking out for the child’s best interests, not her own interests,” while her former partner, Brook Altman, “behaved more as a friend or older sister than a responsible parent.” Just because Altman is the biological parent “does not give her an automatic priority over the adoptive parent,” explained the judge, who said the case was analogous to deciding whether a father should get custody.
The traditional standard for determining such cases between biological parents, as the judge noted, is the best interests of the child. Otherwise, for a parent to lose custody of a child to a third party or the state, some significant deficiency must be shown, not just that the child might be better off in another home.
Altman, who is an award-winning television producer, had a six-year relationship with Scollar from 2004 to 2010, but the two were never married. Altman said she intends to appeal the custody ruling.
“This is just the end of the first phase,” she told the Post. “The judge ignored the evidence and issued a decision that is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. We’re appealing this decision and I’m confident we’re going to prevail.”
Scollar’s lawyers praised the ruling for recognizing adoptive parents and biological parents in a same-sex couple as having an equal role in their child’s upbringing.
“What the court said was, when there are two legally recognized parents in a custody battle, they are on equal footing regardless of how they became the legally recognized parent,” said attorney Brett Ward of Blank Rome. He and Marilyn Chinitz, of the same law firm, represented Scollar, who is a partner at Gold Scollar Moshan.
A gay friend of Scollar’s served as a sperm donor to conceive the child and renounced his parental rights before she adopted. However, his effort to have a say in the girl’s upbringing became an issue between the two women, and the judge said he and Altman “were united in trying to alienate” Scollar as a parent, according to the Post and Reuters.
The Daily Mail also has a story.