News & Politics

Non-bio Mothers in Utah Beware

Rampachodavaram The Utah Supreme Court handed down their opinion on Jones v. Barlow today.

The case involves Keri Jones and Cheryl Barlow.  The two women conceived a child via a.i. and then when the child was 2, their relationship ended.  Barlow now claims that she is no longer gay and doesn’t want her child exposed to that “lifestyle”.  Despite the lower courts’ rulings that Jones be allowed visitation with her daughter, Barlow repeatedly denied visitation.  Jones had to continually return to the courts to get chances to see her daughter.  I’ve written in depth about this case here.

The case was argued before the Utah Supreme Court back in August of 2005.  The decision was handed down today.

We hold that the doctrine of in loco parentis, as recognized by the courts of this state, does not independently grant standing to seek visitation after the in loco parentis relationship has ended. Although this court recognized the right of stepparents to seek visitation in Gribble v. Gribble, 583 P.2d 64 (Utah 1978), standing in that case arose out of an interpretation of statutory law granting such rights, not from an independent common law source. We decline to extend the common law doctrine of in loco parentis to create standing where it does not arise out of statute. We accordingly overturn the trial court’s grant of visitation rights and hold that the common law doctrine of in loco parentis does not independently grant standing to seek visitation against the wishes of a fit legal parent.

  So.  It doesn’t matter that Jones and Barlow planned, together, to conceive this child.  It doesn’t matter that they created legal paperwork to protect Jones’ relationship to their child.  It doesn’t matter that the child considers Jones to be her mother.  None of this matters because Barlow no longer wants Jones to be the child’s parent, and Barlow’s wishes are the only ones that count. Reading the opinion, I can’t help but note that Barlow’s move to Texas (against a court order) actually helped Barlow’s case after all. 

  Because it is clear that Barlow effectively ended the in loco parentis relationship when she moved to another residence and refused to allow Jones to interact with the child

  Barlow stole that child away and has ultimately been rewarded for it.Another gem from the opinion:

 On the one hand, we recognize that mutual bonds of affection can be formed between a child and an adult who does not fit within the traditional definition of a parent and that such a relationship has the potential to enrich the lives of both the surrogate parent and the child. However, in carving out a permanent role in the child’s life for a surrogate parent, this court would necessarily subtract from the legal parent’s right to direct the upbringing of her child and expose the child to inevitable conflict between the surrogate and the natural parents. Such a doctrine raises concerns that a legal parent could be deprived of a portion of her parental rights on the basis of “elusive factual determinations” as to whether she intended to relinquish those rights to a third party.

All the documentation Jones and Barlow created when they were in love that they intended to form a family, that Barlow intended to give birth to a child that she wanted Jones to help parent for the rest of that child’s life, that Jones was considered a parent by Barlow; all those things that we all do to try and establish our families as families in the absence of equal marriage and adoption rights, in the end all of that means nothing to the courts.   No one expects that they will fall out of love with their partners.  No one expects that if they do fall out of love, their break-up will degenerate to horrifying lows of legal nastiness.  No one expects that their partner will turn into the kind of person who would do anything to keep you from the child you planned together, out of spite and anger.  And yet, it can happen.

And now, if you live in Utah, spite and anger will win.

My heart is breaking for Keri Jones and her daughter.  My heart is breaking for every non-bio mom here in Utah, including myself.

You can read the opinion and the dissent here.

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  1. That’s horrible. In the face of so many things tearing families apart, here’s one more.

  2. I’m a non-bio mom in Utah and I’m devastated.

  3. I can’t imagine the self-loathing that Barlow must feel to say she’s now “recovered” and to go to these great lengths to get this decision.

    Ultimately the person who loses the most from this is her own daughter. Disgusting.

  4. The only thing that made sense to me in that opinion was Chief Justice Christine Durham’s dissent. I don’t understand how the court could not grant visitation when the parties clearly intended to raise this child together. This scares me, even as the bio-mom. If something should happen to me could my family take my child away even though we have done everything we can to protect my partner’s relationship with our son? So frightening…

  5. wow – I’m sure cases like this are continuing to happen all over the US and, until gay and lesbian parents and families are treated equally, UNDER THE LAW, by federal means, I fear this battle will be like the ‘gay adoption’ and ‘gay marriage’ ones. State-by-state. I am wondering: what advocacy agencies are helping the lesbian mom in this case?

  6. also – locally – what can gay and gay-allies in the Utah area do to help in this case?

  7. this is an outrage. how is it that drug addicts and abusers can have their children but just because someone is gay or lesbian THEY are the immoral ones. ive known keri all my life and there is no one i know who would make a better parent. she is kind and loving and will give her all for her child. what a world we live in.

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