Most divorce disputes do not garner national attention. However, one particular divorce case and related custody battle in Bexar County have become highly publicized. The results of this case are important on a personal level for the parties involved, as well as on a political level for the state of Texas.
As we discussed recently, the Bexar County case involves a same-sex couple legally married in Washington, D.C. The couple moved to Texas, and one of the women gave birth to a child through artificial insemination. Soon afterward, the couple decided to separate. Since Texas does not legally recognize marriage between two people of the same sex, the state also does not allow for divorce proceedings between persons of the same sex.
In opposite-sex divorces, the non-birth parent has a right to request child custody. In same-sex marriages in Texas, since the marriage is not recognized as legal, only the birth parent is recognized as having a right to custody.
Only two days after the district judge in San Antonio ruled the women’s divorce and child custody case could proceed on the basis that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, the 4th Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay of the ruling. Attorney General Greg Abbott claims that District Judge Barbara Hanson Nellermoe overstepped her legal bounds. The attorney general has requested that the appeals court vacate the judge’s decision.
The appeals court has set a May 5 deadline to receive briefs in this matter.
With the divorce and custody proceedings on hold once again, the former couple and their daughter remain in limbo. The coming weeks are critical in determining the future of same-sex marriage and divorce rights in Texas, as well as the future of one little girl.
Source: Austin American-Statesman, “Texas appeals court halts ruling in gay-divorce case,” Chuck Lindell, April 24, 2014