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Former partner of lesbian mother ordered to pay child support.

A Pennsylvania appellate court became one of the first in the country to rule on child support for children born to same-sex couples when it affirmed that a lesbian must pay support for the five children her domestic partner bore during their relationship. (L.S.K. v. H.A.N., No. 00396MD02 (Pa. Super. Ct. Dec. 17, 2002).)

Lisa Kove and Helen Naumoff were partners for over 10 years, and during that time they decided to have children together. After insemination via an anonymous donor, Kove had a child in 1990. Naumoff, who had been laid off, cared for the child while Kove worked. In 1993, Kove had quadruplets, also by artificial insemination. Naumoff again stayed home and took care of the children.

In 1997, the couple split, and Rove moved to San Diego with the children. Naumoff then sought and won joint legal custody and partial physical custody during summers and school breaks.

In 1998, Kove sued Naumoff for child support; Naumoff argued that she should not be required to pay support because she is not a biological or adoptive parent. A trial court found Naumoff had in loco parentis status because she assumed the obligations of a parental relationship without a biological or adoptive connection, and it ordered her to pay child support.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the decision, ruling that Naumoff had a duty to pay support under the doctrine of equitable estoppel. (This principle prevents a party from asserting or denying in court information that contradicts already-established truth, when the contradiction would be unfair to another person who relied on the original position.)

The court found that Naumoff's in loco parentis status gave her standing to win joint custody, which prevented her from claiming she was not liable for support. "Equity mandates that [Naumoff] cannot maintain the status of in loco parentis to pursue an action as to the children, alleging she has acquired rights in relation to them, and at the same time deny any obligation for support," wrote Judge Joan Orie Melvin.

"In order to protect the best interests of the children involved, both parties are to be responsible for the emotional and financial needs of the children," she added. The court also found that state child support guidelines applied in the case.

"This case shows that parental rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand," said Tiffany Palmer, who represented Kove and is legal director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia. "I was pleased that the court applied the child support guidelines and treated this family on an equal basis to heterosexual parents."
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Title Annotation:Pennsylvania
Author:Porter, Rebecca
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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