Visitation Rights for Lesbian MomC.S. v. J.S.

C and J began living together in 1999. Several years later, they decided to have a child together, and Jennifer was artificially inseminated. C went to the sperm bank with Jennifer, and actively participated in the selection of a donor. C also paid most of the expenses related to the pregnancy and birth. When the child was born, in January 2003, both mothers’ last names were included on her birth certificate. Both women cared for the child as parents. In July 2004, when the child was about a year and a half old, J broke up with C. For a while, the two spent about equal time with the child. J apparently had no problem leaving the child in C’s care, but she refused to respond to C’s repeated urging that the custody or visitation arrangement be formalized. Finally, C filed a petition for visitation with the J&DR court. J immediately cut off all contact between C and the child until the judge ordered supervised visitation beginning in December 2004.

A trial commenced. After C had presented her case, J’s attorney made a motion to strike. At that point, the judge entered into a colloquy with J’s attorney about the meaning of “parent” in Virginia law. He suspended the hearing and asked both sides to brief the issue. We have joined the case in order to argue that C is a legal parent with a right to visit her child.  On October 25, 2005, the J&DR Court dismissed CS’s petition, holding that although it would benefit the child to maintain a relationship with CS, that benefit was outweighed by the harm that would be caused by JS’s continued obstructions of visitations. The case went to trial on October 16, 2006, and we filed post-trial briefs on December 1, 2006.  In April 2007, the judge ruled against our client, holding that under Virginia law, she cannot be recognized as a parent. We have appealed. On June 3, 2008, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court, refusing to recognize CS as a parent.


Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Jay Vance, Fredericksburg

Date filed

August 17, 2005


Virginia Court of Appeals