MS Supreme Court reverses ruling in same-sex custody battle

MS Supreme Court reverses ruling in same-sex custody battle

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a decision in the case of a same-sex couple that divorced in 2016 after having a child through artificial insemination, ruling that a woman had parental rights equal to her ex-wife that gave birth to the child. The ruling said that sperm donors have no parental rights under Mississippi law.

Christina Strickland and Kimberly Day, a same-sex couple living in Mississippi, legally married in Massachusetts in 2009, according to court documents. The couple had previously adopted a child in 2007, though Day was officially the adoptive parent because Mississippi law prevented same-sex couples from adopting together.

A year after marriage, the couple decided to have a child through artificial insemination from an anonymous sperm donor, and Day gave birth to a child in 2011.

Strickland testified that the couple planned to have the child in Massachusetts so that both parents could be listed on the birth certificate, but the child was delivered six weeks before her due date in Mississippi, according to court documents. Day disputed this, claiming she decided to have the child in Mississippi because she did not want Strickland on the birth certificate.

The couple separated in 2013 and divorced in Rankin County Chancery Court in October 2016. In the judgment, the chancery court ruled that Strickland served in place of a parent, though she was not the child's legal parent, because the anonymous sperm donor had parental rights that must be terminated in order for Strickland to be the child's legal parent.

After Strickland's appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the chancery court erred in its decision that the anonymous sperm donor had parental rights that prevented Strickland from being the child's legal parent.

This is the first time the court has addressed what rights an anonymous sperm donor has in a child conceived of his sperm, setting a precedent that sperm donors do not possess any parental rights under Mississippi law.

The court also found that Day should not be able to challenge Strickland's parental rights, because there was ample evidence that the couple jointly and intentionally agreed to have the child.

The case has been sent back to Rankin County Chancery Court with instructions to determine custody between Day and Strickland.