Parent Survival Guide Parent Survival Guide Issue 02 (Spring) - Page 29

(Cont. from p. 27) preference expectations. For one, her former wife accused her of abuse, something alienating wives commonly do, according to Dr. Harman, because our inherent cultural programming dovetails with the claim that men or fathers are abusive. Her former wife carried the baby, so Chris was placed in the role of “dad” even though she is equally as nurturing a mother as her former wife is.

In addition, the issue of same-sex parents is fraught in Mississippi. LGBTQI people have faced serious legal challenges not experienced by straight people. The ban against same-sex adoption wasn’t struck down until May 2, 2016 and even after Obergefell v. Hodges, proposed law HB 1523, “The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” would have included language formalizing religious beliefs or moral convictions that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Fortunately HB 1523 was struck down. But there remains an undercurrent of unease about LGBTQI people, or no such law would ever have been proposed. According to a New York Times article of April, 2016: “Mississippi lacks any legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people in housing, employment or public accommodations such as restaurants, hospitals and schools. At the same time, the Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, does not cover sexual orientation and gender identity6.”

By all accounts, Mississippi is a cold, hard place to be LGBTQI. Chris remarks somberly that her own father and brother support her former wife because she’s in a heterosexual relationship. “My brother is a Bible-thumper and he says it’s wrong and he won’t have it in his house,” she told me. It’s the sting of another betrayal on top of what she has already experienced.

Chris relates that her former wife discussed Chris negatively in front of the boys and told them that their marriage wasn’t legal even though they were together. Baker’s strategies numbers 1 and 5 apply: Chris is portrayed as unsafe because the marriage wasn’t legal, and Chris’ authority is undermined.

Chris stood up for herself. She loves her sons and she was determined to see them again. She was determined to be recognized as their parent. On May 9, 2016, the court recognized her marriage as legal; therefore her former wife’s new marriage was void. Another court date for divorce and custody was set for September 27, 2016. In the new court date, Chris was petitioning to be added to her younger son’s birth certificate and to be listed as his legal mother.

It should have been about love. It should have been about the time, care, and resources Chris spent parenting her boys. Instead it came down to semantics.

Chris was granted a divorce but not the rights to her children. The final judgment of divorce states that the younger son was born not “of the marriage,” in which both parties are considered parents, but “during the marriage” which may mean something else—and both parties are not considered parents.

Semantics are everything in the law, I understand that in an intellectual way. Still, I am not a lawyer. It’s difficult to read the Court’s decision that Chris acted in loco parentis but that she wasn’t legally a parent to the children she mothered.

In fact, the decree discusses “a natural father somewhere…whose rights have not been terminated” as a means to reason that Chris isn’t a parent because a child can’t have three parents. The Court admits that the natural father may have signed something somewhere terminating his parental rights, but that document wasn’t in evidence.

I personally think such a statement about a sperm donor opens the door to a world of future legal trouble, because if a natural father somewhere has rights, does he also have obligations?

spring 2017 PSG 29

It should have been about love. It should have been about the time, care, and resources Chris spent parenting her boys.