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Complex custody fight unfolding in Houston

Paternity claims, maternity claims and custody fights are commonplace in Texas family courts and elsewhere, but a case in Houston may take the prize for complexity and uniqueness. A woman there wants custody of twins even though, genetically, they are not hers. The father, who is a genetic parent, says the woman was a surrogate who simply carried the babies to term. Not so, says the woman, and she wants co-parenting rights with the father who is gay and has a male partner who also wants to be part of the family. Some experts say this could be a landmark case that defines what it takes to be considered a mother.

The story begins a few years ago when the father and the woman decided they wanted to have children even though they were not in any sort of relationship. The woman was implanted with anonymously donated eggs fertilized with the father's sperm. When the twins were born, the problems began. The woman says that's when she learned that the father was gay, and that he considered her to be a surrogate who would surrender all parental rights. The woman denied agreeing to such an arrangement and there was no written agreement or any other evidence of a deal. The father is arguing that the woman has no genetic links to the children and therefore cannot claim to be the biological mother.

If it all sounds complicated, it is, and it could well open new avenues in family law. The woman bases her case on the fact that she carried the children, delivered them and she loves them as a mother, and those reasons alone are enough to qualify her for co-parenting status. One expert says that under Texas law a woman who gives birth is either the biological mom or a surrogate. This case seems to be in a gray area.

The case has been argued several times in court and so far, the only agreement between the two sides has been for additional hearings. While the attorneys are trying to keep the lid on media coverage to preserve the children's privacy, the case has drawn national media attention. No doubt many judges and lawyers are watching too.

Source: KTRK-TV, "Man, woman face off for parental rights of twins," Miya Shay, Sep. 24, 2012

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