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.
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.”