Sheila Asmus

A Lesbian Mom Is Suing To Redefine Paternity In Child Support Case

Sheila Asmus is asking for support from her ex, even though she has no biological or legal ties to Asmus' son.

A Minnesota woman suing for child support from her ex-girlfriend is asking the court to reexamine its definition of paternity, reports City Pages.

Sheila Asmus is asking her ex, Lori Hagood, to contribute toward supporting her 13-year-old son Jacob, who lives with Asmus but spends a third of the month with Hagood.

In the suit, she claims she encouraged Hagood to adopt Jacob and “has at all times agreed to [Hagood] forming and maintaining an attachment relationship with the child.”

Hagood reportedly made monthly payments for two-and-a-half-years before stopping in 2015, but she’s not biologically related to Jacob. And, because Minnesota didn’t have marriage equality while they were a couple, has no legal ties to Sheila or Jacob, either. She maintains Asmus decided on being a mother long before they lived together, and she has never been treated as a real co-parent.

Lori Hagood

In an earlier case, Johnson v. Soohoo, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of a lesbian asking for parental rights to her ex-partner’s biological child. The court determined that, because the non-biological mother was a de facto parent, biology wasn’t the only factor in establishing parental rights. “This case is like, ’Okay, if the court can give non-biological, non-legal parents rights, can the court then impose obligations?” Phil Duran of OutFront Minnesota told City Pages.

Regardless of how the court responds to Asmus’ case, it could have wide-ranging implications in custody cases, at least in Minnesota.

“Over time, particularly because of the circumstances same-sex couples find themselves in, courts often deal with pragmatic functions of a parent, regardless of legal or biological ties,” says Duran. This doesn’t necessarily open up new questions, but I don’t know that they’ve had exactly this collection of facts before them.”

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.
@ItsDanAvery