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]