As we enter into the new era of same-sex marriage becoming legal throughout the nation, so to do we enter into the realm of unique cases. One particular ongoing case in Knoxville, TN stands out among the rest.
In 2014, Sabrina and Erica Witt were married in Washington D.C, which was one of the few states that recognized same-sex marriage at the time. After the wedding, the couple set their sights on raising a family. They sought an anonymous donor for artificial insemination, and Sabrina became pregnant. As their marriage continued, Erica never legally adopted the child. She most likely expected to be with Sabrina for the rest of her life and it made the adoption a non-issue. However, only two years into the marriage, the couple filed for divorce.
The legal adoption oversight has now come full circle and is now the central issue in a custody battle. Tennessee’s Fourth Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan ruled Erica as a “stepparent”. Within this scope, Erica is unable to make decisions about the child’s life, such as state boundaries or medical and educational decisions.
Right now, the case is going through the court, but it’s expected to make its way up to the Tennessee Supreme Court, where the current language in Tennessee law refers to only heterosexual couples. This isn’t surprising, as the laws were last visited in 1977 – 40 years ago. The possibility of same-sex marriage was on nobody’s radar at that time.
As more divorces are bound to come out, more and more are eventually going to have these kinds of unique situations. New definitions are going to be applied to old words and new situations are going to make everyone rethink these decisions. This is going to be especially true in more conservative states, where the laws have been written without same-sex marriage in mind.
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Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.
Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.
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