NASW scores legal victory in same-sex parenting case in Michigan

Jul 28, 2023

LGBTQ parents sitting with their child

We are happy to announce that on July 24, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court in Pueblo v. Haas (by a 5-2 decision), ruled in our favor of granting unmarried people in same-sex relationships the right to seek custody and parenting time with their children even if there was no genetic connection.

In this decision the Michigan Supreme Court overruled a previous holding that refused to apply the equitable-parent doctrine to same-sex couples who were unable to wed. One caveat to this ruling is that the same-sex couples need to show that they would have married before the child’s conception or birth if there had not been a ban on same-sex marriages.

We also want to thank NASW Michigan Chapter Executive Director Duane Breijak for getting us involved in this matter.

Background

The National Association of Social Workers,  including its Michigan Chapter, submitted an amicus brief on March 10, 2023, to the Michigan Supreme Court as it hears the case Pueblo v. Haas. The case will determine custody rights for separated unmarried LGBTQ couples.

The case concerns Carrie Pueblo and Rachel Haas – partners in a committed same-sex relationship – who chose to have a child together using assisted insemination, with Haas carrying the child. In 2014, the relationship ended before same sex marriage was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court, but they continued to share custody and parenting of the child.  

In 2017, Haas requested that Pueblo have no further contact with their child.  Pueblo filed a complaint seeking joint legal and physical custody.

The trial court and the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Haas’ favor, finding that because Haas and Pueblo were never married, and Pueblo is not a legal parent or related to the child, she has no right to assert custody. Pueblo’s case is now before the Michigan Supreme Court. 

NASW submits amicus briefs to offer the social work perspective in court cases that impact social workers and the communities they support. The amicus brief in this case urges the court to consider the best interests of the child.

Making an unnecessary change to a child’s relationship with their parent can cause serious emotional harm to the child. Social science research confirms that the bonds of attachment are critical for a child’s healthy development. It does not matter whether there is a biological or legal connection between the parent and child. 

NASW supports protecting the familial attachments between LGBTQ couples and their children and recognizes that these familial relationships are of the same strength, depth, and importance to the healthy development of children as the relationships of opposite-sex couples and their children.  

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