An instant family: a Kentucky gay couple sets out to raise quadruplets, knowing the state recognizes only one of them as the father – Parenting
Since their three sons and daughter were born in Lexington, Ky., on July 26, partners Thomas Dysarz, 31, and Michael Meehan, 36, have been making daily trips to the hospital to hold the newborns to their chests while feeding them. “It lets the child hear your heartbeat while he’s eating,” Dysarz said. That way, he added, they know that he’s their daddy.
The quadruplets–Jacob, Michael, Tristan, and Taylor–may realize that Dysarz is their father, but legally speaking, only Meehan–their biological father–has the right to call himself “Dad.” And even though the babies’ surrogate mother has agreed to relinquish her parental rights, Dysarz likely will remain only an unofficial father as long as the family resides in Kentucky, where state law does not provide any legal channel for gay men and lesbians to adopt their partners’ children.
Actual]y, only six states and the District of Columbia have established legal precedent at the appeals court level that explicitly approves so-called second-parent adoptions. Nevertheless, there are steps Dysarz and Meehan and other gay parents should take to protect themselves in case one of them dies or they decide to break up, according to Ruth Harlow, legal director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. “You have to build as much evidence as possible that there was a specific intent that both partners act as coparents,” she said.
Lisa Coons-Andersen of the Florida-based group We 2 Have Parental Rights recommends that same-sex parents not only legally document their life as a family with things such as a will but also create records of parental involvement through photos, school documents, or proof of their participation in their children’s extracurricular activities. “These may not be legally binding,” she acknowledged, “but if you’re caught in a dispute over the kids with your ex-partner, they can at least give your lawyer something concrete.”
Dysarz, who owns two Lexington hair salons, said Meehan, who is an attorney, “is drawing up all kinds of legal papers for us.” In addition, he’s “not too worried” about a custody battle should the two break up. “This has made us stronger as a couple,” he said, adding that next year they plan to have more children with the same surrogate mother–this time using Dysarz’s sperm.
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