The couple never formalized their understanding concerning the child's custody. They did not sign a Joint Custody Agreement. While they formalized their personal relationship with a "holy union" in 1999, they neglected to formalize the relationship with the child.
Like In re Mullen, decided by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2011, this decision also denies the non-biological mother any rights to continue her relationship with the daughter she's helped raise since birth.
This is a sad situation but not unusual especially when the adults raising the child fail to take any steps to formalize the parental relationship. Ohio's definition of a "parent" does not include the lesbian partner of a biological or legal parent. It does not matter if the person is supporting the child financially and emotionally. It does not matter if that person has developed a parent-child relationship; it also doesn't matter if the recognized parent encouraged the relationship. Ohio, like many other states, does not recognize de facto or "psychological" parents.
Many same-sex couples are starting families. Unfortunately, most do not sign joint custody agreements. And, those that do often do not seek to have those agreements adopted by a court. This is a mistake.
Most of the couples getting caught up in these cases are lesbian. Seems there are not many gay male couples fighting over their children. Maybe the men are just less apt to behave badly.
In my experience, the couples balk at the prospect of hiring their own lawyers to represent their interests. This is short-sighted and stupid. Each prospective parent needs to understand her respective rights, responsibilities and obligations. They do not understand why one lawyer cannot prepare the agreement. And, in many cases, the initial joint custody agreement can be drafted by one lawyer. But, having independent legal advice is important.
I believe if the women who were raising M.E.G. had an agreement and that agreement had been adopted in court, the outcome would have been different. That court order would be enforceable. At least J.L.G., as the non-biological parent, would have been in a better position.
Like the Mullen case, J.L.G. was considered little more than a stepparent who had a relationship with the kid's mother. And, until second parent adoption is established in Ohio, courts will continue to issue this type of decision. Unless, that is, the people raising these children hire lawyers who can provide them with enforceable court orders.