Family Law

Ohio Supreme Court Gives Exclusive Custody to Biological Mom in Dispute with Same-Sex Partner

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The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled for the biological mother seeking sole custody of her daughter in a dispute with her former same-sex partner.

The 4-3 decision (PDF) said Kelly Mullen of Cincinnati did not give up exclusive rights to raise her child despite sharing custody with her former partner, Michele Hobbs, according to an Ohio Supreme Court press release and the Columbus Dispatch.

Hobbs had argued that Mullen’s acknowledgment of her role as a co-parent in a ceremonial birth certificate and other documents created a contractual agreement to share custody. A magistrate agreed, noting that Mullen had named Hobbs in her will as the child’s guardian after her death, and that Mullen had executed powers of attorney to allow Hobbs to make school, health care and other decisions for the child.

But a juvenile court found Mullen had revoked those documents and had refused to sign any formal shared custody agreement. As a result, the court said, she was entitled to sole custody. An appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. “Although Mullen and Hobbs had shared responsibilities for the child, Mullen had not agreed to permanently cede partial custody,” Justice Robert Cupp wrote in the supreme court’s majority opinion.

Three justices dissented in two separate opinions. Dissenting Justice Paul Pfeifer argued that the key question was whether Mullen agreed to share custody with Hobbs, not whether she came to regret the decision. “The law has not caught up to our culture, and this court has failed to craft a rule that addresses reality,” he wrote.

Hat tip to Liberty Counsel, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mullen.

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