Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Same-Sex Custody Case from Montana

Indiana has case law allowing for step-parent visitation but I think in this sort of case Indiana would have the same result.

Mont. same-sex parental rights ruling appealed - washingtonpost.com:

"HELENA, Mont. -- A Montana woman who lost a court battle with her former same-sex partner over parental rights filed an appeal Thursday with the state Supreme Court.

District Judge Ed McLean of Missoula had ruled Monday against Barbara Maniaci, following what attorneys for both sides called Montana's first same-sex parental rights trial.

The judge decided that the woman's former partner Michelle Kulstad is a legal parent to two children _ a 9-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl _ adopted by Maniaci. He awarded Kulstad joint custody and decision-making authority over the children's education, health care and 'spiritual upbringing.'"


Missoula attorney Susan Ridgeway, representing Kulstad, said her client is much more than an acquaintance.

"She's the second parent of these children; she's not the fifth boyfriend of the parent," Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway said that Montana law has "very, very strict" requirements for awarding someone a parental interest, and that Kulstad has met those requirements.

"She made a commitment to be a parent, and she's proven that she's had a parent-child relationship with the children," Ridgeway said.

She added that Maniaci allowed Kulstad to develop a relationship with the children. Ridgeway said it's in the children's best interest for that relationship to continue.

During the two-day bench trial in May, Kulstad testified that she and Maniaci were in a committed relationship for 10 years. Each child lived with the couple in their Turah home since age 1.


In his ruling this week, McLean also found that Kulstad should be compensated for money she put into fixing up Maniaci's home and other expenses; he ordered Maniaci to pay restitution valued at more than $100,000. Nimocks said he is asking that enforcement of the restitution order be postponed pending the outcome of Maniaci's appeal.

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