TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that when same-sex couples have children together, both parents can be fully recognized as co-parents under Kansas state law.
In its decision, the court said that Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the interests of children. The court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody can be enforceable.
With this ruling, Kansas joins a number of other states in ruling that when two people bring a child into the world and then raise that child as co-parents, the law should treat both of them as the child’s parents, regardless of gender or biology.
LGBT advocates see the ruling as significant not only for same-sex parents, but also for families where non-biological parents are raising children.
Friday’s ruling involved the case of two Johnson County women, Kelly Goudschaal and Marci Frazier, whose long-term relationship deteriorated after they had become parents of two girls who are now 10 and 8.
Goudschaal was the birth mother for their two children, who they then raised for many years as co-parents. After the relationship broke down in 2008, the couple continue to co-parent the children for a period of time after separation, but eventually Goudschaal cut off contact between Frazier and the children.
After Frazier went to court, a Kansas trial court granted joint custody to the two women. Goudschaal appealed the order and argued that Frazier was not a parent and had no right to seek custody.
The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling and explained that both women could be legally recognized as parents under Kansas law.
Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, called the decision “groundbreaking.”
“The court rightly found that the co-parenting agreement was not only legal, but that it served the best interest of the children,” said Bonney.
“The Kansas Supreme Court recognized that children with same-sex parents have the same need for stability and protection as children in any other family,” said Cathy Sakimura, the Family Law Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We are grateful to the court for this thoughtful decision protecting the best interests of children in all families.”