08/01/2013

Alabama judge validates lesbian mom’s visitation rights to her children

In what is believed to be a first in Alabama, a judge in Mobile County, Alabama has granted standard visitation rights to a lesbian mother without any overnight restriction on unmarried partners. 

Chelsea Hughes, who was represented by the SPLC, moved from Seattle to Alabama so that she could continue to care for her four young children after they were relocated there by her former husband following a military transfer to Mobile. For months before SPLC’s involvement, the father denied Chelsea any access to her children because of her sexual orientation and her subsequent relationship with a woman. The order validates a successful resolution on behalf of Chelsea and the children in the case in which SPLC lawyers were prepared for trial absent successful agreement. 

“This sets the right precedent for LGBT parents – and any unmarried parent in Alabama because LGBT people and unmarried parents have just as much right to their children as heterosexual couples,” said Sam Wolfe, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

A circuit judge approved favorable visitation rights in a July 25 order. Although similar rulings may have occurred in Alabama where such orders are not widely published, this appears to be the first time an Alabama trial court has approved standard visitation rights for an avowedly lesbian or gay parent. Overnight restrictions – sometimes referred to as “paramour” restrictions – especially burden same-sex parents who are still prohibited from marriage in Alabama.

“Parents should never have to choose between their children and an unmarried partner,” Wolfe said. “LGBT parents have faced serious mistreatment in Alabama and it has got to stop.”

Attorneys on the case included Jadine Johnson and Christine Sun of the SPLC, and Richard Shields of McCleave Denson Shields, LLC.