4 Investigates: Woman fights for parental rights after same-sex marriage crumbles
March 06, 2019 07:39 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One New Mexico woman claims she was improperly denied parental rights to twin babies conceived via artificial insemination by her then-wife.
Jeannine Kammann says she is a mother of twins despite what a court told her recently. She avoids the empty bedroom in her Albuquerque home ever since she was stripped of parental rights by a Bernalillo County District Court judge.
“I think the laws are pretty clear. Same-sex marriage became legal – with that we’re supposed to have the same rights and right now it looks like it doesn’t matter whether you get married before you pursue to have children or not,” said Kammann.
In September 2015, Kammann was married. Both women wanted children and both underwent fertility treatments and artificial insemination.
“I was there for every visit. They have the option that you can press the syringe – so involved,” said Kammann.
Kammann’s treatment didn’t take but her then-wife Maile’s treatment did. When Kamman found out they were having twins, she said it was the happiest moment of her life.
“Absolutely the greatest,” said Kammann.
However, before the children were even born, the couple’s marriage crumbled. Kammann’s pregnant wife packed up and left, setting the stage for a years-long legal battle.
In court filings, the biological mother argued Kammann should have no access to the children for a variety of reasons, including that Kammann was not the genetic nor biological mother of the twins.
Ultimately, the judge based his final decision on paperwork.
Despite the fact Kammann helped pay for the artificial insemination, at one point paid child support, and was married to the biological mother when she became pregnant — Judge Gerard Lavelle ruled Kammann has no parental rights.
The sticking point for the judge: the lack of a final signed document consenting to the insemination.
In one court hearing last year, Kammann was asked if she or her then-wife signed acknowledgment of parentage. Kammann replied, “not to my knowledge.”
However, Kammann maintains her intent to become a parent was clear.
“There’s a whole bunch of forms, I mean it’s not one blanket form – we signed a whole lot of forms,” said Kammann.
Attorney Elizabeth Honce represents Kammann in the case, which is now up for appeal.
“At this point, the law in the State of New Mexico is that if you don’t have a signed consent for the particular insemination that results in the birth of the child or children – that you can be ruled to be not a parent,” said Honce.
Attorney Tom Montoya represents the biological mother of the twins. He declined to comment since the case is up for appeal.
However, this scenario highlights how family law for same-sex couples – in many ways – is uncharted territory. In fact, many states across the country are still trying to sort it all out.
“New Mexico definitely is due for some updating to fully address the new issues that have arisen,” said Cathy Sakimura, who is the family law legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
In Kammann’s case, the judge arrived at his decision after considering existing state law which is used to determine a father-child relationship. The word “father” was simply replaced with the word “mother.”
“There are parts of the ways that the statutes are constructed that end up leaving out many same-sex parents because they don’t encompass all the ways that people have children,” said Sakimura.
As for Kammann, she can’t help but wonder if her life would be different today had fate allowed the fertility treatments to work on her. With an appeal pending, Kammann fears she’s missing out on a crucial time in the twins’ lives. They are now two years old and Kamman hasn’t seen them in months.
“Our children need to have their second parent back in their life,” said Kammann. “I just can’t give up on my children.”
Updated: March 06, 2019 07:39 AM
Created: March 05, 2019 07:11 PM
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