Christine Yared

Same-Sex Child Custody Case

Custody Battle Video

I represent Joy Phillips in her case to obtain custody and parenting time for her two children. Joy and her former partner have two children ages 7 and 10 who share both of their last names. On September 14, 2015, Joy’s former partner cut off her parenting time with her children. I filed a complaint for custody and parenting time. The biological mother filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that Joy did not have legal standing. On March 25, 2016, Judge Kathleen A. Feeney issued a significant decision denying their motion to dismiss the case and ruling that Joy is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine if she is an equitable parent.

Judge Feeney ruled:

“It directly follows that if this Court, as a representative of the State of Michigan, were to deny the availability of the equitable parent doctrine–a marital benefit–to Phillips, such an action would also violate the Equal Protection Clause. The unfortunate reality is that the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell came too late for many families. Same-sex couples in Michigan who desire to commit to each other and raise children as part of a nuclear family were, until June 26, 2015, forced to do so without the benefits and protections afforded to married couples. Children of same-sex couples would grow up with two parents, as far as they knew; unfortunately for them, one of their perceived parents was, in the eyes of the law, a legal stranger. This circumstance was a natural product of the barriers precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry. This Court finds that it would be unacceptable and inequitable to allow the vestiges of this unconstitutional circumstance to linger any further.”

This ruling is a critical victory for Joy and other similarly situation lesbian and gay parents. Unfortunately, Joy’s former partner continues to deny parenting time. The date of the evidentiary hearing has not yet been set.

Grand Rapids Press article

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