The reality of making a baby for a gay couple is that they need some help from a third party. That person either donates their sperm to a lesbian couple, or their eggs and is willing to carry the baby for the male couple. This creates some uneasiness during the ingestion period and thereafter.
The legalities notwithstanding, there is also the emotional aspect. Think about it: there is always a biological connection to someone who is not a part of the family unit. In my situation, we chose a friend to donate sperm, and it became very complicated very quickly after the baby was born.
Another thing to note is that the second parent adoption cannot commence until the baby is actually born. I was surprised, but technically there is no one to adopt until the baby is actually born; so there is a period of uncertainty at the very beginning. The second parent adoption requires one of the biological adults to give up their rights and obligations to the child, so the partner who is not the biological parent can adopt.
After seeing the beautiful face of a child, there can be a time of doubt that the biological parent will actually go through with giving up his or her rights, or have second thoughts. In my case, the adoption went through, but the sperm donor wanted to stay in the life of our child. That made for a very uncomfortable triangular relationship amongst the adults.
What is a parent? Is it anyone who loves a child or spends time with a child, or is it a person that the child considers to be a parent?
If you look up "parent" in the dictionary, the definition is very limiting, almost circular. The Webster dictionary defines parent as "one that begets or brings forth offspring." Wikipedia defines a parent as "a caregiver of the offspring in their own species." Neither definition is very satisfying, considering the world today.
So I am in search of the definition of parent. Does it mean someone who creates a child? Does that include the people who desert their offspring? Are they really parents? Or what about people who adopt children and raise them, but are not biologically connected? And then there is the gay family, which may have both individuals (biological and adoptive) in the same family unit. Are they both equal parents in the eyes of the world, and the law? Now, even a person who has not adopted the child is considered a parent.
And what is that person who donates either sperm or egg? He or she gives up rights and obligations to the child so a second parent adoption can take place—but is he or she still a parent? It's a tough call, because children are curious about their histories, and that person is a part of their genetics. In my case, the sperm donor was involved in our daughter's life, so it was like having someone over your shoulder, second guessing everything. It's hard enough raising a child with two people; think about having a third. Three is not an easy number. I felt ganged up on by the "other two" parents. I was the outcast in my own home, the non-biological, and was constantly reminded of my second-class status. I was also the bread-winner, so I had the pleasure of paying for everything; but I was constantly being told what I should do.
And so we broke up.
My ex broke up with me by absconding with our daughter to California on a steaming hot Friday night in July 2010. She was certain she had every right to go wherever she wanted with our daughter because, after all, she gave birth. Thankfully, I adopted our daughter, and had the standing to claim custody. And my ex was wrong. She refused to come home or have any communication with me. The donor was, at the very least, aware; or, in fact, a co-conspirator. I was horrified, scared I would never see my daughter again.
My attorney and I sought immediate relief in the Family Court, in New York. The order I obtained, besides temporary custody, included an order that she return to New York with our daughter "forthwith." This order was ignored. She went into hiding, and by the grace of God, I was able to retrieve my daughter by flying to California with a private eye in tow, getting a draconian court order in California ordering the police to pick up my daughter, and returning her home within five days.
I thought the hell was over. I was gravely mistaken. A war took place, and my parental status was challenged over and over again. Even my adoption was challenged. I succeeded in obtaining legal custody by 2012, but the toll on my life, and my daughter's life, was enormous.
There's no way of knowing in advance what kind of craziness can take place in a divorce, but one thing we do know—it's impossible for a gay couple to make a baby by themselves. That daunting reality means that we need to involve a third party of some sort in our family dynamic. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it goes horribly wrong. When the court gets involved, who knows what could happen. The law is murky and chaotic. The best interest of the child is often not the primary factor when the courts make decisions for us.
Written by Allison Scollar
Allison Scollar is a real estate broker with Keller Williams in Tribeca, New York. Her custody battle broke ground in that it highlighted the court's antiquated approach in dealing with same-sex divorce and non-biological child custody.