Georgia lesbian custody case
Full story here: http://www.dailyreportonline.com/Edi...ublic%5F%2Ehtm
A 7-YEAR-OLD GIRL is at the center of a court battle that is equal parts gay rights struggle, jurisdictional quandary and legal ethics question.
In less than a year of litigation, this single adoption matter has spawned two conflicting court orders, two contempt citations, a State Bar complaint, and a possible habeas action.
All this controversy swirls around the efforts of one Georgia woman, Elizabeth Hadaway, to adopt a young girl, Emma, who turned 7 this week. A judge sitting in Wilkinson County denied Hadaway’s adoption petition—at least in part because she was living with her same-sex partner—but then Hadaway convinced another judge in nearby Bibb County to give her custody.
The Wilkinson County judge has found Hadaway and her former attorney, Dana P. Johnson of Macon, in contempt and handed down jail sentences to the two. Since Johnson has withdrawn from representing Hadaway, Hadaway is getting help from Macon attorney Michael S. Winner and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
For now, Emma is still in foster care under a Wilkinson County Juvenile Court order, with two apparently competing orders leaving state Department of Family and Children Services officials in a tough spot. But Hadaway’s new lawyers are working to enforce the Bibb County order, with plans to file a habeas action in Wilkinson County.
DFCS sees itself as caught in the middle, said Beverly Jones, a public information officer at the state Department of Human Resources, of which DFCS is a part.
“Whatever the ruling is, whichever way it goes, our position is to keep the child safe while the courts work this out between all parties,” she said.
Said Winner, “We just want to see Emma returned home to Elizabeth.”
Emma was born in 2000 to her biological mother, a truck driver named Deborah Schultz, who in a 2002 divorce proceeding was awarded full custody of the girl. Court orders from Wilkinson and Bibb counties and pleadings for Hadaway on which this story is based do not show Emma’s father as participating in the current struggle.
Hadaway, an emergency medical technician, got to know Emma in 2004 because Schultz’s lesbian partner was a co-worker of Hadaway’s longtime partner, Karen Baughier, according to a social worker’s assessment.
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On June 19, 2006, Wilkinson County Superior Court Judge James L. Cline Jr. granted Hadaway’s petition for custody. But when the accompanying adoption petition came before one of Cline’s colleagues on the court, Judge John Lee Parrott, it was less well-received.
Parrott heard the matter last November and denied the adoption petition on January 8. He called the case a “subterfuge,” saying in his order that Hadaway had framed her petition for adoption as that of a single person while in reality she and her lesbian partner were trying to adopt Emma together.
He added that Hadaway, who, according to an order of another court, makes about $46,000 a year plus overtime as an EMT at the Medical Center of Central Georgia, had based her ability to care for Emma from the viewpoint of the couple and not just herself.
Unmarried individuals can adopt in Georgia, noted Parrott, and, unlike in Florida, where Schultz resides, there’s no Georgia statute banning gays from adopting. But, wrote Parrott, Georgia law doesn’t provide for adoption by an unmarried couple, and a Georgia constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 precludes same-sex marriage.
“[V]iewing the instant case on its substance and not its form,” wrote Parrott, “[Hadaway] seeks to have her and her same-sex partner treated as a family union or unit, the same as a married couple for the purposes of the adoption. However, the policy consid erations of the constitutional provision and the adoption code should subsume the ‘end run’ procedurally attempted in the instant case.”
Parrott predicted that Emma might suffer a “stigma” living in a rural Georgia area with a same-sex couple. He also suggested that Hadaway wouldn’t have legal recourse for getting financial support from her partner should their relationship end.
He also cited the potential for “long-term exposure to the homosexual parent’s lifestyle” as a reason for his ruling. “If the instant adoption is approved,” wrote Parrott, “inevitably the child will witness both directly and circumstantially the homosexual activity of [Hadaway] and her same-sex partner,” which he suggested was “undesirable conduct.”
At this point, Parrott said custody would revert back to Schultz, the biological mother, if she picked up Emma within 10 days; otherwise, custody would fall to the state.
Hadaway and Schultz met at a truck stop in Jeffersonville on Jan. 12, four days after Parrott issued his order. But Schultz refused to take Emma after seeing her devastation over leaving Hadaway, according to the order, so Hadaway took her back.
Anticipating a denial from Parrott, Hadaway had already ended her seven-year relationship with Baughier and moved to Macon in Bibb County.
Armed with a renewed agreement from Schultz that Hadaway could have custody, Hadaway filed a petition for change of custody in Bibb County Superior Court on Jan. 19.
While the Bibb County petition was pending, Parrott apparently discovered that Schultz had not taken her child back and that Hadaway had gone to another court. On Feb. 20, he ordered the Wilkinson County Department of Family and Children Services to take custody of Emma.
DFCS placed Emma with a foster family in Wilkinson County, and Hadaway met a caseworker at the family’s home to give up custody. The Wilkinson County Juvenile Court issued an order transferring legal custody to DFCS pending a final hearing in the Juvenile Court and forbidding further communications between Emma and Hadaway.
But Parrott wasn’t done with Hadaway and Johnson, Hadaway’s attorney. On March 23, he held both in contempt, ordering each to report to the Wilkinson County jail April 6 for 10 days—although he later granted each a bond.
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Go to the full article for the whole thing. I can't even comment right now -- this judge (Parrott), placing his own views of homosexuality above the best interest of the child and also usurping the stated desires of the parent -- I'm really just too angry to comment right now.
Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not. -- George Bernard Shaw
But if the courts don't recognize same sex relationships, and they cannot be legally married ,is their relationship even recognized as a domestic partnership? If not,doesn't that qualify the single status,they aren't even considered "legally married".What under the law would they call the relationship between the two women? You cannot equate it as a family unit equal to heterosexual marriages because in effect there are not equal rights and cannot be seen in the same context as a heterosexual couple ,because there are no laws that even recognize homosexual relationships on the same level,or validate their relationships and families on the same level as heterosexuals . So wouldn't it be legal for her to identify herself as single? If she had signed a petition in only her name(Which is what I'm asssuming) how does he conclude that as a couple they have sought adoption ,wouldn't both people have had to be involved in that petition to claim the right to adopt the child together?
Referring to these remarks :“[V]iewing the instant case on its substance and not its form,” wrote Parrott, “[Hadaway] seeks to have her and her same-sex partner treated as a family union or unit, the same as a married couple for the purposes of the adoption
Last edited by ladyinred; 04-20-2007 at 12:03 AM.