Same-sex couples enjoy full parental rights following court ruling

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex parents have the same parental rights as oppose-sex ones.

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex parents, even if they are not the biological parents, enjoy the same parental rights as opposite-sex couples, according to The Republic. The court was asked to decide whether a state statute that presumes that a husband is a child's father if the child is born within ten months of marriage also applies to same-sex couples. The state's top court ruled that in light of a number of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have placed same-sex marriage on an equal footing with opposite-sex marriage, that it would be unconstitutional to deny same-sex parents full parental rights.

Background of the case

In 2008 two women, Kimberly and Suzan, were married in California and afterwards moved to Arizona. Kimberly got pregnant via artificial insemination in 2011 and both Kimberly and Suzan signed a joint parenting agreement and had mirroring wills that declared they were both equal parents to the child, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Kimberly worked as a physician while Suzan stayed at home to care for the child.

In 2013, however, the couple divorced and Kimberly tried to cut off the child's contact with Suzan. Suzan filed a lawsuit seeking parenting time with the boy and pointed to an Arizona statute that says that a husband is assumed to be the father of his wife's child so long as the child is born within ten months of their marriage.

Marriage vs. biology

Obviously, the statute specifies that it applies to fathers. However, Suzan argued that the statute should be interpreted, in light of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, as applying to any spouse and not just to biological ones. Indeed, the statute itself, despite being gender-specific in its language, presumes that the husband is the father even without biological proof of paternity.

The Arizona Supreme Court agreed that the statute does indeed apply to same-sex couples and thus awarded Suzan full parental rights. The court went further, however, and noted that a number of now unconstitutional laws are still on the books in Arizona that refer to marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The court noted that the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes laws in Arizona that refer to marriage as being exclusively between a man and a wife unconstitutional. Those laws will need to be updated, either by the legislature or, as in the above case, by the state's Supreme Court.

Family law help

Same-sex marriage and divorce law continue to evolve in Arizona and there is still quite a bit of confusion over how state statutes affecting marriage and divorce should be applied to same-sex couples. That's why anybody with a same-sex family law issue should talk to an attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients navigate this still changing legal landscape and ensure that their rights and interests are forcefully advocated for.