August 30, 2016 - After decades of tireless advocacy by many individuals and organizations, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, expanded the concept of parental standing in a 6-0 decision for the cases of Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C.C. and Matter of Estrellita A. v. Jennifer L.D. Thankfully, the law in New York will no longer unnecessarily blind itself to the realities of LGBT families under the harmful 1991 precedent of Alison D. v. Virginia M. Embracing the prescient Alison D. dissent of the late Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, the Court of Appeals made clear that whether a parent has a biological connection, is married, or has obtained an adoption will no longer be the exclusive factors considered by New York courts when awarding custody or visitation. Based on the specific facts of these cases, the Court of Appeals decided for now that a pre-conception agreement between parents can be taken into account, and left for another day whether a broader test of legal parenthood will be adopted for other situations. While this result was a definite victory for the community, there remains a role for the Legislature to address other outstanding legal hurdles for LGBT families.
The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (LeGaL)'s legal director Brett Figlewski was proud to join Margaret Canby and Caroline Krauss-Browne of Blank Rome LLP, Susan Sommer of Lambda Legal, R. Thomas Rankin of Goodell & Rankin, Eric I. Wrubel, Linda Genero Sklaren, and Alex R. Goldberg of Warshaw Burstein, LLP, and Andrew J. Estes and Jeffrey S. Trachtman of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP in representing the interests of the nonbiological parents and children in these cases. Countless others participated as amici. We also remember the late advocate Paula Ettelbrick today, the lead attorney for the nonbioligical mother in Alison D.
The full opinion can be read here. LeGaL looks forward to educating our members and the community about this important development in the days ahead.
Brooke S.B. Resources
Decisions and Related Cases
- Matter of Brooke S.B. v Elizabeth A. C.C. NY3d, 2016 NY Slip Op 05903. https://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2016/Aug16/91-92opn16-Decision.pdf
- In Re Anonymous. Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department (September 6, 2016). 2016 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5833. http://le-gal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/In-re-Anonymous-FINAL.pdf
- Lambda Legal (2016, October 12). Lambda Legal Applauds New York Court Ruling Affirming Adoption Rights for Married Same-Sex Couples. Lambda Legal. http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20161012_court-ruling-affirming-adoption-rights
- Leonard, Art (2016, September 29). New “Parent” Precedent Helps Co-Dad. Gay City News. http://gaycitynews.nyc/new-parent-precedent-helps-co-dad/
- Marsh, Julia (2016, September 2). Mom becomes 1st New Yorker to benefit from new custody laws. New York Post. http://nypost.com/2016/09/02/mom-becomes-1st-new-yorker-to-benefit-from-new-custody-laws/
- Otterman, Sharon (2016, October 10). A Complex Case Tests New York State’s Expanded Definition of Parenthood. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/nyregion/new-york-state-case-expanded-definition-of-parenthood.html?hpw&rref=nyregion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well
News Articles and Statements
- Blank Rome LLP (2016, August 30). Blank Rome Secures Landmark Victory in New York's Highest Court on Behalf of Client. Blank Rome LLP. http://www.blankrome.com/index.cfm?contentID=31&itemID=4055
- Coyle, Marcia (2016, August 31). With Court Ruling, NY Joins Growing Number of States Recognizing Same-Sex Parental Rights. ALM.
- Dhanoa, Feroze (2016, August 31). New York Court Redefines Parenthood. New York City Patch. http://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/new-york-court-redefines-what-it-means-be-parent
- EILE Magazine staff (2016, September 5). US: NY High Court Rules Non-Biological Parents Can Seek Custody and Visitation. EILE Magazine. https://eile.ie/2016/09/05/us-new-york-high-court-rules-non-biological-parents-can-seek-custody-and-visitation/
- Feuera, Alan (2016, August 30). New York’s Highest Court Expands Definition of Parenthood. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/31/nyregion/new-york-court-parental-rights.html
- Ford, Zach (2016, August 30). New York Court Expands Definition Of ‘Parent’ To Recognize Same-Sex Couples. ThinkProgress. https://thinkprogress.org/new-york-same-sex-parenting-decision-2cf5352d8d20#.1hkunwyaf
- Klasfeld, Adam (2016, August 30). Victory for 'Mama B': Same-Sex Parenting Evolves in NY. Courthouse News Service (CNS). http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/08/30/victory-for-mama-b-same-sex-parenting-evolves-in-ny.htm
- Kreis, Anthony Michael (2016, August 30). A Huge Victory for Same-Sex Parents in New York Shows the Ripple Effect of Obergefell. Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/08/30/in_new_york_a_landmark_ruling_for_estranged_gay_and_lesbian_parents.html
- Lambda Legal (2016, August 30). Victory! New York High Court Rules Non-Biological Parents Can Seek Custody and Visitation. Lambda Legal. http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20160830_victory-non-bio-parents-can-seek-custody-visitation
- Leonard, Arthur (2016, August 30). New York State Tosses Noxious Custody Precedent. Gay City News. http://gaycitynews.nyc/new-york-state-tosses-noxious-custody-precedent/
- Leonard, Arthur (2016, September 9). New York Court of Appeals Overrules Alison D. v. Virginia M., Sets New Test for Same-Sex Co-Parent Standing on Custody/Visitation Claims. LGBT Law Notes. http://le-gal.org/new-york-court-appeals-overrules-alison-d-v-virginia-m-sets-new-test-sex-co-parent-standing-custodyvisitation-claims/
- New York City Bar (2016, August 30). Recent Decision: Visitation Rights Ruling Expands Definition of 'Parent' in New York. New York City Bar. http://www.nycbar.org/media-listing/media/detail/recent-decision-visitation-rights-ruling-expands-definition-of-parent-in-new-york
- Pope-Sussma, Raphael (2016, August 30). NY Court Rules That Non-Biological, Non-Adoptive Parents Can Seek Custody After Break-Up. Gothamist. http://gothamist.com/2016/08/30/new_york_parenting.php
- Stashenko, Joel (2016, August 30). Visitation Rights Ruling Expands Definition of 'Parent' in New York. New York Law Journal
- Stashenko, Joel (2016, September 1). Best Interests of Child Still Guide in Wake of Ruling on Parenthood. New York Law Journal. http://le-gal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Best-Interests-of-Child-Still-Guide-in-Wake-of-Ruling-on-Parenthood.pdf
- Strauss, Elissa (2016, August 30). New York’s Highest Court Redefines What It Means to Be a Parent. Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/08/30/new_york_s_highest_court_redefines_parent_to_better_include_gays_and_lesbians.html
- Washington Blade Staff reports (2016, August 31). N.Y. top court issues parental rights ruling. Washington Blade. http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/08/31/n-y-top-court-issues-parental-rights-ruling/
- Barasch, Amy, and Kim Susser (2016, September 19). Court of Appeals Recognizes New Frontiers in Parenting. New York Law Journal. http://le-gal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Court-of-Appeals-Recognizes-New-Frontiers-in-Parenting.pdf
- NYT Editorial Board (2016, August 31). An Overdue Victory for Gay Parents and Their Children. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/01/opinion/an-overdue-victory-for-gay-parents-and-their-children.html?_r=0
Alison D. Press Archive
- Leonard, Arthur (1991, June 1). New York High Court Rejects Lesbian Co-Parent Suit. Lesbian/Gay Law Notes. http://le-gal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/June-1991-Law-Notes-cover.pdf