Court: No visitation rights for woman after same-sex divorce

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Noting the lack of state laws governing same-sex divorces, a Maryland appeals court has ruled that a lesbian woman has no right to visitation or custody of a child to whom the woman's former partner gave birth before the couple married.

The Court of Special Appeals on Aug. 26 upheld a ruling by a Washington County Circuit judge that Michelle Conover does not have parental standing over 5-year-old Jaxon Conover, The Daily Record of Baltimore reported. The boy was born six months before Michelle Conover married the boy's biological mother, Brittany Conover, and 17 months before the two divorced.

Writing for the court, Judge Robert A. Zarnoch said that clearer laws governing the rights of same-sex couples need to be established by state legislators. He ruled that Michelle Conover was a "third party" and not a second parent, meaning she would have to prove that Brittany is an unfit mother or that exceptional circumstances exist to override Brittany Conover's choices about the people with whom her child spends time.

Michelle Conover had filed a lawsuit for visitation rights in February 2013 after she said her former wife stopped allowing her to see Jaxon Conover in July 2012. Michelle Conover later said she met the standards for paternity and could legally be considered the boy's father.

In July 2013, the circuit court ruled against her, acknowledging the common-law presumption that a child born during a marriage is the child of both parents but pointing out that Jaxon was born before the women were married.