Judge Considers Special Circumstances When Granting Custody to Gay Partners

In a complicated case involving same-sex unions and surrogacy, a Hudson County judge recently put controversy aside and decided custody of twin girls based on their best interest. All custody cases carry their own complications. If, after reading the following, you have questions regarding custody issues in Hunterdon County, contact the family lawyers at The Rotolo Law Firm in Lebanon, NJ.

This particular custody case involves Donald Robinson Hollingsworth, Sean Hollingsworth and Donald’s sister, Angelia Robinson. Donald and Sean, partners who were married in California, currently reside in Jersey City. The men, wanting a family, entered into a surrogacy agreement with Donald’s sister, under which she agreed to carry a child – or twins, as it turned out – for the couple. The twin girls were conceived through in vitro fertilization with a donor embryo fertilized by Sean. (1)

Following a complicated birth, the men assumed custody of the twin girls, allowing for visitation with Ms. Robinson. In time, however, the relationship between brother and sister deteriorated, eventually winding up in a lawsuit. In 2009 a judge declared Ms. Robinson the legal mother of the girls even though she had no genetic ties to them. (2)

Disagreements between the men and Ms. Robinson heightened. They failed to agree on child-rearing basics such as schooling, religious beliefs, the girls’ biracial heritage (their biological father was the child of a biracial couple) and the issues of surrogacy and same-sex lifestyles. These major differences of opinion led the Hudson County Superior Court judge to determine that a joint custody arrangement would not work in this situation and instead based his decision on who would provide the best care for the girls. (1)

Sean, who worked part-time from home, was able to devote ample time to raising the girls. Donald ran a successful business. The couple owned homes in Jersey City and Asbury Park. Ms. Robinson lived with her mother in a rental apartment. While the girls were in her care, Ms. Robinson’s mother would watch them while she worked. Both women had expressed anti-gay and anti-surrogacy sentiments. (2)

In making his ruling, the judge expressed concern that the women’s viewpoints would eventually be shared with the girls with damaging effects. However, he recognized Ms. Robinson’s place as legal mother and, while granting full custody to the girls’ biological father, he preserved Ms. Robinson’s visitation rights. (2)

Neither same-sex marriages nor surrogacy contracts are recognized in New Jersey. While the men were married in California, they are considered to be in a civil union in New Jersey. The surrogacy contract entered into by Ms. Robinson and her brother could not be enforced because in New Jersey, as in Michigan, such contracts are considered to be against public policy and void. (3)

Custody issues are rarely black and white. More often there are many gray areas to take into consideration. If you or someone you know is involved in a custody issue in Hunterdon County, consider seeking the advice of the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm located in Lebanon, NJ, which is approximately ten miles from the county seat in Flemington.

(1) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/nj_gay_couple_fight_for_custod.html

(2) http://www.law.com/jsp/nj/PubArticleNJ.jsp?id=1202535807445

(3) http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/surrogacy-contract-lawyers.html

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