Court orders mother to hand custody of son to sperm donor

A judge in has ruled that a sperm donor should have custody of a child that was being raised by a lesbian couple

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 16 February 2023 11:27 GMT
Related video: Lesbian couple has trouble conceiving due to U.S. Black sperm donor shortage

A district judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a sperm donor should have custody of a child that was being raised by a lesbian couple.

Kris Williams told KFOR she’s still the boy’s mother despite the fact that the marriage to her partner, Rebekah Wilson, has ended.

But Judge Lynne McGuire ruled on Monday that she’s not the child’s mother, despite being listed as such on the birth certificate. She ruled that the custodial father is the sperm donor, Harlan Vaughn.

“I guess I’m still in shock,” Ms Williams told KFOR of the ruling.

According to legal filings, Ms Wilson struck an agreement with the sperm donor in September 2018. The agreement didn’t mention Ms Williams.

Ms Williams and Ms Wilson were married on 1 June the following year. Ms Wilson was six months pregnant at that time. The child was born in August 2019 with the birth certificate listing Ms Wilson and Ms Williams as the mothers.

They raised the boy together for more than two years before the end of their marriage. Ms Wilson got a Victim Protective Order against Ms Williams in November of 2021 when she moved in with Mr Vaughn. The two had started a relationship and were now seeking legal status as parents.

Kris Williams (Screenshot / KFOR)

Legal filings state that on 18 January of last year, Mr Vaughn filed a petition for Adjudication of Paternity and Establishment of Custody and Visitation.

Judge McGuire ruled on Monday that Ms Williams was unable to prove a mother-child relationship because she didn’t give birth to the child and she didn’t adopt the boy.

The judge pointed to the state’s Uniform Parentage Act, which doesn’t consider same-sex marriages and establishes how a parent-child relationship is confirmed. It doesn’t consider artificial insemination, which is how Ms Wilson became pregnant, but it does include adoption.

The ruling states that “Williams, through her testimony and exhibits presented during the trial, admitted she and Wilson discussed adoption”.

“Furthermore, Williams admitted she knew that under Oklahoma law she needed to adopt the minor child to establish parental rights,” it adds. “Williams chose not to adopt. Williams testified that she didn’t believe it was fair that she would have to seek court intervention to establish parental rights of the minor child… The reality is that the law provides a legal remedy available to Williams. She knowingly chose not to pursue it.”

“I can tell you that that brings a lot of anger and emotion on me,” a tearful Ms Williams told KFOR.

Ms Williams and her lawyer, Robyn Hopkins, are appealing the case to the state Supreme Court. They argue that there isn’t sufficient precedent for the ruling to stand in this complicated situation.

“It’s the first kind of case with these facts,” Ms Hopkins told KFOR. “There is [no] case law precedent for these facts. Case law, even though it does not exist, these facts exist. And so, we have to use what we do know and apply it to the facts that are relevant.”

“One thing I can say is Kris is on the birth certificate of this child and they were married,” the attorney said. “I mean, to me, it’s logical. It’s black and white. But again, we don’t have case law in Oklahoma to support that. They were married. Marriage is legal. Same-sex marriage is legal in the state of Oklahoma. And they had a child. So, there’s a child of the marriage.”

She argued that same-sex couples shouldn’t have to adopt their own kids to be granted parental rights as it’s not required of men who are part of heterosexual couples.

“Show me where the case law says that gay people have to adopt their own children?” the lawyer asked. “Why do gay people have to have a home study and a background check to adopt their own children and pay upwards of a couple thousand dollars and go to court to make it official?”

Legal filings state that Ms Wilson and the child has been residing with Mr Vaughn since November 2021 and that both Ms Wilson and Mr Vaughn testified that they didn’t think their donor agreement was valid and that they ended the contract in writing in February of last year.

Mr Vaugh said in a statement to KFOR on Tuesday that “we remain focused exclusively on our child’s protection and well-being. We are grateful for the court’s validation”.

The Independent has reached out to Ms Wilson’s attorney for comment.

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