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Montana Court Issues Historic Same-Sex Parent Custody Ruling

The ACLU hailed a ruling by a Missoula, Montana district court judge who awarded custody rights to Michelle Kulstad. Kulstad had raised two kids with her partner Barbara Maniaci for nearly a decade. The kids were legally adopted by Maniaci, who sought sole custody when the couple split:

Missoula"In his order, McLean focused on whether or not a parental bond existed between Kulstad and her children. 'The evidence shows that rupture of the children's relationship with Ms. Kulstad would be not only contrary to their best interests, but severely detrimental to their well-being,' he wrote...Maniaci, as the 'legally adoptive' parent, argued that Kulstad had no custodial rights to the children, and should not be granted visitation rights, calling the woman a 'legal stranger' to the children. But in his 48-page decision, McLean rejected Maniaci's argument and ruled that it was in the best interest of the children for their parent-child relationship with Kulstad to continue. He found that Kulstad raised the children with Maniaci and provided for them financially. The court also noted that the children recognized Kulstad as a parent and have a constitutional right to that relationship."

Said Betsy Griffing, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana: "This is the first case of its kind that I am aware of. The point of this is that children of every parent have the right to a parental bond. An exception cannot be carved out in the case of gay parents."

Court: Same-sex parent has custody rights [missoulian]

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  1. This is huge for us here in Missoula and very exciting to have our district court make such a ruling. This has been a very costly battle for this mother. To help with her legal fees, see the Montana Human Rights Network website at

    Posted by: steve | Oct 1, 2008 3:32:52 PM

  2. "Barbara Maniaci attorneys say that their client is now married to a man, and that she and her husband are entitled to raise their children the way they see fit. Barbara's former partner Michelle Kulstad is a legal parent to two children — a 9-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl — adopted by Maniaci decided District Judge Ed McLean of Missoula.
    What pisses me off is that two people get into a same-sex relationship for ten years, raise children, spilt, and one marrys and enters a heterosexual relationship. THEN, wants to "rid herself" of the past by destroying ties between her children and the person they've known all these years to be a parent to them.
    Barbara Maniaci needs her ass beaten for putting her children through this sort of mess. She made her bed, the children did not have a choice in the matter. They should be allowed to continue their relationship with Michelle Kulstad, and the confused Maniaci's "new love interest". I surely hope the ruling stands and Maniaci has to pay Kulstad all the money awarded in damages for Kulstad fixing up her home for the new man.
    See this sort of mess is what makes gay relationships seem unnatural. And it is yet one more instance where the courts need to intervene and provide protections for these relationships. The relationships are not going to stop regardless of court rulings or ammendments to constitutions. However, many lives are going to continue to be destroyed, not to mention relationships, unless people wake up and start looking at the children.

    Posted by: Shane | Oct 4, 2008 8:24:57 PM

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