BY STEVE ROTHAUS
A Seminole County lesbian can remain the adoptive mother of her 6-year-old son, despite efforts by her ex-partner to have the Florida adoption revoked.
“After the couple split up, the birth mother — the biological mother — asked the court to vacate the adoption,” said Miami attorney Cristina Alonso, who helps represent the adoptive mother.
Seminole County Circuit Judge Linda D. Schoonover agreed with the birth mother and in 2013 removed the adoptive mom’s name from their son’s birth certificate. A state appeals court later reversed the decision. On Wednesday, Florida’s Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the appeals court ruling to stand, said Alonso, an attorney at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt.
“Because this is an adoption proceeding, the identities of the women and their son is confidential,” Alonso said.
The women lived in Sanford, Florida and are known in court documents as C.P. and G.P. They began a committed relationship in 2005. Two years later, the couple decided they wanted to have a child and that C.P. would be the birth mother.
C.P. became pregnant via an anonymous sperm donor. During pregnancy, C.P. changed her last name so that she and the baby would all share G.P.’s surname.
G.P. was present when their son, D.P.P., was born and for the first four years of his life “was equally responsible for raising and parenting” him, according to court records. “Both C.P. and G.P. held themselves out as D.P.P.’s parents, and both were designated as the child’s parents on all medical and school-related paperwork.”
In 2011, the parents sought legal recognition as co-parents and jointly petitioned for G.P. to adopt the boy without terminating the birth mother’s rights. The adoption became final in January 2012 — shortly before the couple broke up.
“Even after they separated, they continued to co-parent the child,” Alonso said. “About a year after the adoption was granted, the birth mother decided she didn't want the adoptive mother in the child's life, so she filed a motion to vacate the adoption.”
C.P.’s rationale for revoking the adoption: that she and G.P. were not legally married and that adoption papers (erroneously) referred to G.P. as a “step-parent.”
Schoonover granted the birth mother’s request and G.P.’s name was removed from their son’s birth certificate.
G.P. appealed and in May 2014 the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed Schoonover’s decision.
“It would be unconscionable to allow mother to invoke the jurisdiction of the court for the sole purpose of creating a parent-child relationship between her partner and her child and then to allow her to destroy that same relationship because her relationship with partner had ended,” the appeals court wrote.
Nadine Smith, executive director of LGBT-rights group Equality Florida, said she is “thrilled that the highest court in Florida has affirmed our rights as parents and families must be protected.”
Smith said this case offers “a unique complication of not having our marriages recognized.”
“This is a case where the lack of respect for our marriages means that protections that ought to be in place were not there and a lengthy court battle ensued,” Smith said.
Alonso, who also helps represent six same-sex couples seeking to wed in Miami-Dade County, said the case has now been returned to Seminole circuit court to deal with custody and visitation issues.
“The appellate ordered the trial court to treat the case like any other custody case,” Alonso said. “If they were married, this would have been a non-issue.”