Lesbian Custody Battle Has a Twist

Twist of a tryst makes case stands out

By Jessica Greene
|  Friday, Jan 29, 2010  |  Updated 2:11 PM PDT
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Lesbian Custody Battle Has a Twist

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Torrington man gets offer to take his case to Judge Joe Brown.

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It's a situation all too common. A happy couple has some kids. One of the parents strays, falls in love and the two split. But a case in the coastal town of Santa Cruz is turning that normal dysfunctional family scenario on its ear.

A Santa Cruz court is slated to hear a custody dispute between former lesbian partners in which the biological mother has become romantically involved with the sperm donor father of her 10-month-old twins.

Kim T. Smith of Santa Cruz has sued for joint custody of the twins, saying she and former partner Maggie Quale agreed to raise the boys together.

Qaule and the boys' biological father, 28-year-old Shawn Wallace, now live together and argue they should be able to fully parent the children.

Quale and Smith never registered as domestic partners with the state and Smith did not adopt the boys, Max and Levi, but the two women are listed as the boys' parents on their birth certificates, and the twins carry the hyphenated last name Quale-Smith.

Quale and her now-boyfriend set up a Facebook page and a Web site called "Save Our Twins," where they are asking for public support and financial help to pay for an attorney.

Before I explain my situation, I want to be clear: supporting me in this fight does not mean you’re opposed to supporting non-biological parents in same-sex unions. It does not mean you will be swaying the court case in one direction or the other. What I am asking for is the chance to have my voice heard too.

Smith's attorney said she had never heard of a case in which a biological mother has tried to "sub in" the biological father following the break-up of a lesbian relationship.

"If they won, we would consider it a very dangerous precedent for lesbian couples having children with the assistance of known sperm donors," said Deborah Wald, a family law attorney who, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, is representing Smith.

Quale's attorney, Darlene Kemp, said the dispute was not about gay rights.

"It's being turned it into something political, when it's not that at all," Kemp said. "It doesn't have anything to do with sexual orientation. She doesn't meet the criteria of a presumed parent."

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