News Brief: Expanded Definition of Parenthood Tested in New York Court

In August 2016, New York state expanded its definition of a parent to include caretakers without biological or adoptive ties. In September 2016, a first court case put that definition to the test.

Expanded Definition of Parenthood Tested in New York State Court

Just weeks after New York State expanded its definition of parenthood to include parents without biological or adoptive ties, a first case tested that definition. The ruling was intended to extend equal parental rights to same-sex couples, and protect children from forced separation from one parent.

Circe Hamilton and Kelly Gunn decided to adopt together in 2009 from Ethiopia, a country that does not permit same-sex couple adoption. To circumvent this restriction, the women listed Hamilton as the sole adoptive parent on the application, a single woman with a boyfriend. At the time, they had been together for five years, and planned to raise the child together. Gunn would adopt the child via second-parent adoption at some point in the future.

The couple broke up later that year, and Hamilton testified that she intended to move forward with the adoption alone. The women remained friendly, however, with Gunn regularly babysitting, attending doctor’s appointments, staying in the same apartment, and briefly employing Hamilton. Gunn considered the relationship as akin to parents who had split during a pregnancy. Gunn initiated the lawsuit when Hamilton revealed her intention to return to her native London with her son. Until the case is resolved, the judge has prevented Hamilton from leaving the country with the boy.

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