Judge Hits Out At Gay Couple In Custody Fight: “Each Abdicated Their Responsibilities” To Their Daughter

"Her legal status is precious and important," ruled Judge Lucy Theis, "not something that can or should be treated irresponsibly."

A judge in England criticized a gay couple this week, claiming the two men “abdicated their responsibilities” to a daughter they had via surrogacy.

The child, now 3, was born to an American surrogate in September 2014: Since then, the couple split and she’s been the subject of a protracted custody battle on both sides of the Atlantic. She lives in New York with her biological father but his ex, who lives in London, wants to remain part of the girl’s life.

He pressed Judge Lucy Theis to make him a legal parent, as well.

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On Friday Judge Theis refused, insisting he hadn’t proved that he had a permanent residence in England or Wales, where she has jurisdiction. But she criticized both men, claiming “each abdicated their responsibilities… to the detriment of [the girl’s] lifelong welfare needs, particularly those relating to her identity.”

Though she is not biologically related, the surrogate mother remains the child’s legal parent. According to U.K. law, until there is a parental order, surrogates are legally considered the mother of the child, even if a donor egg and sperm are used.

Judge Theis urged the exes to explore ways for both of them to be a part of the girl’s life.

“Her legal status is precious and important, not something that can or should be treated irresponsibly as part of the inevitable maelstrom following a relationship breakdown.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.